Alcoholism is the most severe form of problem drinking. It involves all the symptoms of alcohol abuse, as well as, dependence on alcohol. If you rely on alcohol to function or feel physically compelled to drink, you’re an alcoholic.
If timely action is not taken it might affect your body in the long run. Th following article covers affect of alcohol on age or rather aging.
1. Moderation is key.
Liver damage, dementia and skin aging are all more likely with long-term alcohol abuse. For seniors who are lighter drinkers, though, the message is mixed. Alcohol tolerance is lower, and hangovers last longer with age. Drinking can worsen forgetfulness. But the news isn’t all bad, and drinking in moderation may even have some health benefits for seniors. See the different ways drinking affects healthy aging.
2. Hits harder with age
Tolerance for alcohol can decline over time, possibly due to changes in body composition. Hormonal changes appear to increase alcohol sensitivity among women and men alike. As you age, the proportion of fat to muscle tends to increase, even if your weight remains stable. So you develop a higher blood alcohol content even if you drink the same amount you used to. Reaction times and motor ability tend to slow with age – and drinking reduces these abilities further.
3. More isn’t merrier.
Light to moderate drinking may have health benefits. But people often underestimate how much they drink. For standard servings, a single drink equals the following: one 12-ounce can or bottle of regular beer or wine cooler; one 5-ounce glass of wine; and one 1.5-ounce shot glass of liquor at 80 proof or less. According to the National Institute on Aging, a healthy person age 65 or older should drink no more than seven alcoholic drinks in a week, or three drinks in any given day.
4. Sets you up for a fall
Intoxication increases the risk of accidents, including falls, fractures and car crashes at any age. But balance and stability pose more of a challenge as people age. Older adults are more likely to suffer falls, with worse injuries – like hip fractures – and longer recovery periods. Alcohol ramps up the risk even more, as it slows the brain’s activity. Alertness, coordination, judgement and reaction time all decrease with drinking.
5. Shows up in your skin
Alcohol accelerates skin aging. Wrinkles, puffiness, dryness, red cheeks and purple capillaries – heavy drinking can add years to your face. Alcohol dehydrates the entire body, and that includes your skin. Jaundice, when the skin and whites of the eyes turn yellow, is one sign of alcoholic liver disease.
6. Puts strain on your liver
Heavy drinking is a risk factor for disease such as cirrhosis and liver cancer. Even moderate drinking can affect liver function. The relationship works both ways: Aging liver can’t break down, or metabolize, alcohol as quickly, it stays in your system longer. Although moderate drinking may have benefits for the heart, that’s not the case for your liver. Liver function is one of those things that impacts the way we age. That drink a day impacts your liver.
7. Makes medical conditions worse
Chronic conditions that tend to develop with age can be complicated by alcohol. According to the American Diabetes Association, alcohol can cause dangerously low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, up to 24 hours after drinking. Alcohol may interfere with healthy eating for people with diabetes. Drinking can raise blood pressure in the short term, while repeated alcohol binges contribute to hypertension. Heavy drinking is thought to increase the risk of ulcers and keep existing ulcers from healing.
8. Interacts with medications
Older people are likely to take more medicine, so it’s important to know how alcohol interferes with prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Mixing alcohol with medication can either reduce or intensify drugs’ intended effects. Some medications already contain alcohol. Liver function can decrease with age, reducing the body’s ability to break down and get rid of medication. Adding alcohol, which also affects the liver, can increase the risk of drug side effects.
9. Heavy drinking shrinks brain volume.
Heavy, long-term drinking speeds up shrinkage of the brain, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. This loss of brain volume is a key factor in the decline of memory and cognitive ability sometimes seen in aging. A condition known as alcoholic dementia leads to mental confusion, agitation and lack of muscle coordination.
10. Darkens mood
Alcohol has anti-anxiety and anti-stress properties. Given a choice drinking in moderation may be preferable to taking anti-anxiety medications. Whenever you put a drug into your body, whether it’s alcohol or medication or any such substance, you are putting something into your body that doesn’t belong there. Alcohol is a depressant, so too much drinking darkens mood.
11. Disrupts sleep
A nightcap can actually keep you up at night. Some seniors may think alcohol helps them sleep, but it may do the opposite, especially if they have a drink just before bedtime. Many older people have habits that negatively affect sleep, according to the National Institutes of Health. Napping frequently during the day, exercising less and spending less time outdoors can affect sleep cycles, the NIH says. And drinking alcohol (and caffeine) worsens insomnia by keeping seniors from falling asleep or staying asleep.
12. Dehydrates your body
Alcohol is a diuretic – that’s why drinking makes you urinate more. So you need to drink more water to replenish your system. The problem is that the body’s ability to sense thirst and conserve water decreases over the years, making it easier to become dangerously dehydrated. As you age, your body is less able to respond to changes in the weather, like a heat wave. In seniors, signs of dehydration include confusion, incoherence, constipation and falls.
13. Dominates your social life
Retirement brings a lot more time to drink, and social life often centers on alcohol. Retired people tend to drink at a much higher level than even they believe that they’re drinking.
14. Drains your wallet
Don’t underestimate the monetary cost of alcohol multiplied by days and years. Liquor store spending and bar tabs add up to your expenditure. By sometimes switching to nonalcoholic drinks like club soda, ginger ale and water, you can save money at the bar, socialize longer and feel better.
If your drinking is causing problems in your home or work life, you have a drinking problem and it’s time to Take Action.