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How can drinking alcohol affect me as I get older?

Alcohol affects older people more intensely than younger people because of changes in body chemistry as we age. So you might not know your limits as well as you once did. For seniors, alcohol can increase the risk of falls and car crashes. Plus, alcohol can wreak havoc with medications, negating their effects, exacerbating their side effects and even making them toxic.
Howard J. Shaffer, PhD
Addiction Medicine
As you age, several factors combine to make drinking an increasingly risky behavior. Your ability to metabolize alcohol declines. After drinking the same amount of alcohol, older people have higher blood alcohol concentrations than younger people because of changes such as a lower volume of total body water and slower rates of elimination of alcohol from the body. That means the beer or two you could drink without consequence in your 30's or 40's has more impact in your 60's or 70's.

Your body also might go through other changes with age. Your eyesight and hearing might deteriorate; your reflexes might slow. These kinds of changes can make you feel dizzy, high, or intoxicated even after drinking only a small amount. As a result, older people are more likely to have alcohol-related falls, automobile collisions, or other kinds of accidents. Drinking also can worsen many medical conditions common among older people, such as high blood pressure and ulcers.

In addition, older people tend to take more medicines than younger individuals, and mixing alcohol with over-the-counter and prescription drugs can be dangerous or even fatal.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.