Alcohol & aging: How Much Drinking is Too Much?
How Much Drinking is Too Much
When you hear the term binge drinking, you may think of college students drinking all night. But binge drinking can and does occur at all ages – and the threshold for a “binge” may be lower than you think.
Binge Drinking Facts
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as five or more alcoholic beverages for men, or four for women, on one occasion (about two hours). That’s one dinner. One special event. One happy gathering with friends on the porch.
Given that definition, you may want to ask yourself: Could I be binge drinking at happy hour, at my card game, at my family dinners?
If so, and you’re a senior, you’re part of a growing – and unhealthy – trend. For nearly two decades, excessive alcohol consumption has been on the rise in older adults. Some of the latest research finds that nearly one in 10 Americans over 65 regularly binge drinks, according to a study published in 2019 in the Journal of the Geriatrics Society.
Alcohol and Aging: Health Risks
No matter your age, alcohol is a huge risk factor for preventable accidents, such as car crashes, falls and burns. Excessive alcohol use also increases your risk of other serious health issues, including:
- Homicide, suicide and intimate partner violence
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- Cancers of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver and colon
- Alcohol use disorders
In older adults, binge drinking presents unique challenges – even if you only drink too much once in a while. It could worsen conditions you may already have, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and memory loss. Drinking too much can also dull pain that might signal a heart attack, leading to treatment delays.
How MDVIP Can Help
As your partner in health, your MDVIP-affiliated physician wants to help you feel your best. So, when you’re asked about your drinking habits, it’s important to answer honestly. Don’t worry if you drink too much: You won’t be in for a lecture.
Binge Drinking in Senior Citizens
However, if you drink more than you should, your doctor may explore with you some of the reasons for that. Many people who start drinking excessively in their senior years don’t do it for sheer pleasure. Other factors include:
- Loss of identity
- Coping with physical problems, including pain
- Mental health concerns, including depression and anxiety
Even if you don’t drink too much, your doctor should still have an accurate idea how much alcohol you consume. You may benefit from different medications to lower your risk of alcohol-drug interactions, or get other advice about alcohol that can help you live well and enjoy life for a long time to come.