Alcohol Drinking Gets a Couple of Bad Reviews and
Seniors Should Know Limits
Many U.S. senior citizens consume low to moderate
amounts of alcohol on a regular basis but need to be aware of special
warnings for seniors by National Institute on Alcohol
Abuse and Alcoholism
10, 2014 – For a while now alcohol has had a good run with research
studies declaring it a safe or even beneficial drink when it comes to
major health threats like heart problems and cancer. Two reports this
week seem to be pointing in the opposite direction. One says even
light-to-moderate drinkers can lower their risk of heart disease, their
body mass index and their blood pressure by cutting back on alcohol
consumption. And, a doctors’ organization this week put alcohol on its
list of things to avoid to reduce your cancer risk.
Reducing alcohol consumption lowers heart risk,
blood pressure and body mass index
The latest alcohol findings by the
Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and
others call into question previous studies which suggest that consuming
light-to-moderate amounts of alcohol – 0.6 to 0.8 fluid ounces per day -
may have a protective effect on cardiovascular health. The new
multi-center study is published in
The researchers reviewed evidence from more than 50
studies that linked drinking habits and cardiovascular health for over
They found that individuals who carry a specific
gene which typically leads to lower alcohol consumption over time have,
on average, superior cardiovascular health records. Specifically, the
results show that individuals who consume 17 percent less alcohol per
week have on average a 10 percent reduced risk of coronary heart
disease, lower blood pressure and a lower Body Mass Index.
“These new results are critically important to our
understanding of how alcohol affects heart disease. Contrary to what
earlier reports have shown, it now appears that any exposure to alcohol
has a negative impact upon heart health,” says co-lead author Michael
Holmes, MD, PhD, research assistant professor in the department of
Transplant Surgery at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University
“For some time, observational studies have
suggested that only heavy drinking was detrimental to cardiovascular
health, and that light consumption may actually be beneficial. This has
led some people to drink moderately based on the belief that it would
lower their risk of heart disease.
However, what we’re seeing with this new study,
which uses an investigative approach similar to a randomized clinical
trial, is that reduced consumption of alcohol, even for
light-to-moderate drinkers, may lead to improved cardiovascular health.”
In the new study, researchers examined the
cardiovascular health of individuals who carry a genetic variant of the
‘alcohol dehydrogenase 1B’ gene, which is known to breakdown alcohol at
a quicker pace. This rapid breakdown causes unpleasant symptoms
including nausea and facial flushing, and has been found to lead to
lower levels of alcohol consumption over time.
By using this genetic marker as an indicator of
lower alcohol consumption, the research team was able to identify links
between these individuals and improved cardiovascular health.
The study was funded by the British Heart
Foundation and the Medical Research Council, and was an international
collaboration that included 155 investigators from the UK, continental
Europe, North America, and Australia.
Alcohol a danger for cancer, too
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
last week released six dietary guidelines for cancer preventing and one
of the six says that one drink per week increases risk of mouth,
pharynx, and larynx cancers by 24 percent.
Two to three drinks per day increase risk of
colorectal cancer by 21 percent.
The report notes that The alcohol itself (rather
than additives) appears to be the cause of cancer, and all types of
alcoholic beverages (wine, beer, and spirits) are problematic.
Their report appeared in the June 30 issue of the
Journal of the
American College of Nutrition. The Physicians Committee for
Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes
preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher
standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.
Alcohol consumption a special problem for senior
“For many people, moderate
drinking is probably safe,” according to the
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “It may even
have health benefits, including reducing your risk of certain heart
problems. For most women and for most people over 65, moderate drinking
is no more than three drinks a day or seven drinks per week. For men
under 65, it is no more than four drinks a day or 14 drinks per week.
“Some people should not drink at
pregnant women, people taking certain medicines, and people with
certain medical conditions. If you have questions about whether it is
safe for you to drink, speak with your health care provider.
“Anything more than moderate
drinking can be risky. Heavy drinking can lead to alcoholism and alcohol abuse,
as well as injuries, liver disease, heart disease,
cancer, and other health problems. It can also cause problems at home,
at work, and with friends.”
NIAAA on older adults -
There are special considerations facing older
adults who drink, including:
Increased Sensitivity to Alcohol
Aging can lower the body’s tolerance for alcohol. Older adults
generally experience the effects of alcohol more quickly than when they
were younger. This puts older adults at higher risks for falls, car
crashes, and other unintentional injuries that may result from drinking.
Increased Health Problems
Certain health problems are common in older adults.
Heavy drinking can make these
problems worse, including:
• High blood pressure
• Congestive heart failure
• Liver problems
• Memory problems
• Mood disorders
Bad Interactions with Medications
Many prescription and over-the-counter medications, as well as herbal
remedies can be dangerous or even deadly when mixed with alcohol.
Medications that can interact badly with alcohol include:
• Cold and allergy medicine
• Cough syrup
• Sleeping pills
• Pain medication
• Anxiety or depression medicine
Drinking Guidelines for Older Adults
Adults over age 65 who are healthy and do not take medications should
not have more than:
• 3 drinks on a given day
• 7 drinks in a week
Drinking more than these amounts puts people at
risk of serious alcohol problems.
If you have a health problem or take certain
medications, you may need to drink less or not at all.
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