With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, it may be time for seniors in Cincinnati—and across the US—to take a closer look at how social drinking may be affecting their health.
Older adults generally don't drink as much as younger adults, but some seniors still may be consuming more than is appropriate to maintain optimal health—a fact which is especially true for seniors who are taking a large number of medications. As we age, our metabolism slows down and changes. This means alcohol breaks down more slowly and stays in the body longer.
But never fear, you don’t have to give up your weekend drinks or regular cocktail party. You just have to learn how to make the right choices.
Healthy Choices Cincinnati Seniors Can Make about Alcohol Consumption
1. Take a look at your medication list.
You probably already know it, but there are plenty of over-the-counter and prescription medicines that don’t mix well with alcohol. If you haven't gone over the medications you're taking in a while, now is the time to do it.
Write down all of your medications and the reason you think you're taking them and bring it in to your next doctor’s appointment so you can review dosages, time of day you take them, if food should be involved and any other questions you may have.
Your doctor can evaluate the safety of your particular mix of meds (like alcohol some medications don’t react well with each other, and decide the best course of action.
Here's what you need to know about mixing medications with alcohol:
- Drinking alcohol and taking medications for high blood pressure, diabetes, ulcers, gout, and heart failure can make those conditions worse.
- Stomach bleeding and ulcers can occur if you are taking aspirin or other medications for arthritis that may thin blood.
- Any medications such as cold and allergy medications containing antihistamines can make people sleepy.
- Taking acetaminophen and drinking alcohol can increase the chances of liver damage.
- Drinking alcohol and taking certain medicines that aid sleep, relieve anxiety or depression or treat pain can cause a myriad of concerns including sleepiness, poor coordination, difficulty breathing, increased heartbeat and memory problems.
2. Know how much is too much when it comes to alcohol consumption.
If you are experiencing any of the following concerns or if a loved one lets you know they observe these signs after you drink, it's time to take a look at your consumption:
- Increased falling
- Changes in sleep patterns or appetite that do not relate other reasons
- Filling prescriptions at multiple pharmacies
- New onset of irritability and agitation
- Periods of confusion
- Lack of want to socialize with friends and family
The CDC recommends that men drink no more than 14 alcoholic beverages a week and women only 7, but these numbers are only rough estimates. Talk to your doctor to set a daily or weekly alcohol intake that is healthy for you.
3. Don’t drive while under the influence.
Because there is less water in the body as we age, this means that more alcohol remains. As we age our tolerance levels decrease as well. Speech slurs and motor coordination can become affected much more rapidly.
For this reason, an older adult may have a difficult time with alcohol even if they have not increased their alcohol consumptions as they have gotten older.
4. Recognize your risks.
Heavy drinking over a lifetime can cause a whole slew of health problems from liver failure to brain damage and it exacerbates others like immune system issues, diabetes, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, pre-existing liver conditions, kidney problems and memory issues.
Before tucking into that third or fourth or fifth drink this St. Patrick’s Day, Cincinnati seniors need to stop and consider what harm they may actually be doing to their health.