I asked my dear and accomplished friend, Leslie Eckford, to guest write a blog post on some things to consider regarding alcohol and aging. Leslie is the co-author of Aging with Care: How to Hire and Manage Caregivers at Home (Rowman and Littlefield 2018) and MindfulAging.com. You can learn more about healthy aging and care at the Mindful Aging Youtube Channel and Facebook page.

Is a little bit of alcohol good or bad for your health? While the debate rages on, some things are undeniably clear. When it comes to aging and alcohol, the negatives outweigh the positives.

Here are 3 compelling reasons for you to put the booze away for healthy aging.

1. Don’t Get Thrown off Balance

With aging come inevitable changes. You may have sensory changes, such as needing a new prescription for your glasses sooner than when you were younger. You may have a harder time hearing your friend’s conversation in a noisy restaurant.

As hearing and vision alter, it can result in hampering one’s sense of balance. We encourage people to counter this with regular exercise that includes strength-building and flexibility.

But, add alcohol to that mix, and the risk of falls increases. Alcohol is well known to interfere with attention, physical coordination and reaction time. Combined with normal changes of aging, imbibing a few drinks can result in falls and injury.

Falls in the elderly often result in injury, such as fractured bones. Hip fractures can spell faster decline for even a healthy aging individual. Drinking while aging is best avoided.


2. Your Hangover will be Worse

As we grow older, our body has a harder time processing the toxins in alcohol that give you a hangover. Specifically, alcohol (or ethanol) is metabolized in the liver. The 2 enzymes that do the work are alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). In older adults, these enzymes fade in their efficiency to do the breakdown of ethanol.

This results in a much worse hangover. For some people over 60, this can happen even with smaller amounts of alcohol consumption.

Let’s remember what the symptoms of a hangover are. From the Mayo Clinic:

  • Fatigue and weakness.
  • Excessive thirst and dry mouth
  • Headaches and muscle aches
  • Nausea, vomiting or stomach pain
  • Poor or decreased sleep
  • Increased sensitivity to light and sound
  • Dizziness or a sense of the room spinning
  • Shakiness
  • Decreased ability to concentrate
  • Mood disturbances, such as depression, anxiety, and irritability
  • Rapid heartbeat

So, if you were hoping to enjoy unlimited cocktails in your golden years, think again. A hangover may have its charm as a badge of honor for some college-age kids, but it is remarkably unappealing for a wizened grown-up.

3. Common Age-Related Illnesses can Worsen with Alcohol

Diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure) can affect many people as they grow older. It is imperative to control these illnesses as they can lead to very serious complications of heart disease, stroke, memory loss, and disability. Alcohol consumption easily impairs a person’s efforts to manage these diseases.

Consider that alcohol is related to some forms of cancer, can reduce immune system function and worsen osteoporosis. All of this on top of its well-earned reputation for ruining the liver should give anyone at any age pause to seriously consider abandoning this habit.

Jump on the Healthy Aging Bandwagon

There are many, many reasons to quit drinking. With the explosion in the aging population in this country and around the world, it would make sense to consider every action that you can take to improve your overall health for this life phase.

As the saying goes, growing old ain’t for sissies. It is difficult and challenging. More and more, people are seeking the fountain of youth to stave off the ill-effects of age. Perhaps one of the most powerful things you can do is in the palm of your hand. Keep that glass empty.

Leslie Eckford