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Seniors and Alcohol

Alcohol Poses Risks for Seniors

UK Lowered Guidelines for Drinking Alcohol

There is certainly confusion concerning drinking alcoholic beverages. Past studies have claimed that a few alcoholic drinks a day are beneficial to health. However, newer studies and wider research have caused doctors and health associations to re-think otherwise. In fact, the UK recently lowered their guidelines to promote less drinking of alcoholic beverages.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines chronic heavy drinking as consuming more than 60 grams pure alcohol on average per day for men (about 4-5 drinks) and 40 grams (about 3 drinks) per day for women.

Alcohol Increases Risk for Heart Attacks, Strokes and Early Death

According to the latest study published in Lancet, that involved 599,912 drinkers in 83 studies, drinking alcoholic beverages increases risks for heart attacks, strokes and death. In fact, the more people drank, the higher and earlier was the risk for death, especially from cardiovascular problems.

Seniors and Drinking

According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), about 40% of American seniors over the age of 65 drink alcoholic beverages and 78% of them are taking medicines that have dangerous interactions with alcohol. Most seniors who have chronic diseases take medicines that have bad complications and side-effects if they also drink alcohol.. The more a senior drinks, the worse can be the complications and they can even lead to death. The following disease conditions are especially susceptible to bad interactions with alcohol:

  • Diabetes
  • Memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s
  • Liver Disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Mood Disorders
  • High blood pressure goes up even higher from drinking.
  • Coronary heart disease, especially congestive heart failure
  • Epilepsy
  • Depression
  • Neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinsons’s, ALS

Seniors, Medical Drugs and Alcohol

Many prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications and even herbs can have deadly interactions with alcohol. Seniors who drink must carefully read any instructions on inserts included with the medicines. In truth there are  many medicines that cannot be taken together with alcohol. Some of the more commonly known ones are:

  • Flagyl and alcohol can lead to extreme nausea, blackouts and psychiatric problems.
  • Anti-depressive medications
  • Sleeping pills
  • Tranquilizers like Valium
  • Anti-psychotic medicines
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Ibuprofen
  • Pain killers like aspirin and paracetamol
  • Anti-histamines
  • Cough medicines and syrups
  • Medications to regulate the heartbeat
  • Blood pressure lowering drugs
  • Muscle relaxing medicines
  • Statins taken by drinkers can lead to more severe muscle and liver problems.
  • The combination of statins, alcohol and the anti reflux medicine Zantack can cause very bad problems

Other Problems for Seniors Associated with Alcohol

  • Aging Increases sensitivity to Alcohol
  • Aging increases sensitivity to alcohol and an older person can get drunk much faster on less alcohol than when they were younger. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) recommends that seniors do not drink more than one drink a day.
  • Drinking increases the risk for unintentional falls and accidents in seniors.
  • Drinking makes seniors less alert.

Drinking and dementia

A recent French study of over a million people diagnosed with dementia found that drinking alcohol was the main cause of all dementias, especially early onset dementia. According to Dr. Jurgen Rehm the co-author of the study, alcohol disorders shorten life by 20 years and one of the main causes of death is dementia.

The good thing this study showed was that alcohol use was also the most preventable cause of dementia.


Since alcohol was found to be the main cause of all dementias and also is the most preventable cause of dementia, then seniors should cut down or stop drinking. Also, seniors who suffer from chronic diseases and are on prescription or over-the-counter drugs should not drink alcohol without consulting with their doctor or pharmacist, as many of these medicines interact dangerously with alcohol.


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