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Aging and Alcohol

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Remember the college ?Keg Party? where you could down 6 or 8 beers and still walk a straight line, if you had to? Maybe you?re lucky if you now can handle 2 or 3 drinks.

What happened? Research shows alcohol has a much stronger effect on seniors than on younger people. The four basic reasons for this change are:

1. Your ratio of water to fat decreases as you age so there?s less water to dilute the alcohol.

2. Seniors cannot handle alcohol as easily because your body produces less liver enzymes that break down alcohol.

3. Alcohol frequently reduces the effectiveness of any medication and heightens the risk of falls.

4. Older metabolisms don?t absorb alcohol because of more body fat.

These, changes are a factor for increased alcoholism in seniors. About 3 million Americans over the age of 60 have drinking problems; and as much as 20 percent of elderly patients have symptoms. Surprisingly, almost 50% of seniors in nursing homes have drinking problems, but ?are often mistaken for other conditions so alcohol abuse and alcoholism is often undiagnosed and untreated.

However, Alcohol in moderate amounts can help create the so ?called ?good cholesterol? that prevents blood clots, heart attacks and strokes. One alcoholic beverage a day can significantly lower death risks, compared with those who never or rarely drink. Despite these benefits, the potential dangers of alcoholism are severe. So what can seniors do?

1. If you don?t drink, don?t start.

2. If you do drink, limit yourself to 4-5 drinks a week.

3. Avoid binge drinking, and if on medication, do not drink at all.

5. If you have a drinking problem, see a doctor.

Professional Home Care Nurses can monitor the use of alcohol by their patients as part of their duties.

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