Are you feeling that holiday punch more than you used to? It's not just your imagination—our bodies metabolize alcohol differently as we age. Even moderate alcohol consumption can have a negative impact on the health of older adults. As you head into holiday party season, here's what you need to know about aging and alcohol along with some tips to help you minimize the unwanted effects of drinking during the holidays.
Aging and Alcohol
Some research suggests that, as people age, their alcohol tolerance decreases. After consuming the same amount of alcohol, older adults have a higher blood-alcohol concentration than younger people do, which means they may experience the effects of alcohol differently.
Excessive drinking can worsen existing health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. It can also increase your risk of certain cancers, and prolonged alcohol abuse can take its toll on your heart, brain, liver, muscles, and bones. In addition, many older adults take prescription medications that don't mix well with alcohol. Ask your Rite Aid Pharmacist if it's OK to drink alcohol with your medication(s).
If you are going to drink, remember that moderate alcohol use means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men over the age of 65.
How to Manage the Effects of Alcohol During the Holidays
Many adults who don't typically drink will do so in certain social settings, and the holiday season provides many. Even small changes, such as these six tips, can make a big difference when it comes to keeping alcohol consumption under control.
- Count the cocktails. Set a limit to the number of drinks you'll consume, and keep track either with your mobile phone or by holding on to your empty glasses. It's easier to regulate your drinking if you think about the dreaded next-day hangover.
- Make sure you measure. Become familiar with standard drink sizes so you can correctly count your drinks. Mixed drinks often contain more alcohol than you expect, and with wine, try not to be tempted to top off your glass or fill it to the brim. When counting drinks, remember that one beer is a 12-ounce bottle, one glass of wine is five ounces, and one mixed drink should only contain one shot or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.
- Pace yourself. Try to space your drinks out over the course of an evening with breaks in between. Make every other drink a nonalcoholic beverage, such as juice or sparkling water. This way, you will stay hydrated and drink at a slower pace.
- Eat up. Food helps slow the absorption and the effects of alcohol , so make sure you eat enough. Have a small snack before you head to the party. Eating a little before you leave home may also help stave off the temptation to overeat later on.
- Switch the focus. Find another way to enjoy yourself. Dance. Renew old friendships and discover new ones. If alcohol is your security blanket, try to seek out healthier ways of learning to relax in social situations.
- Assert yourself. Remember, you don't have to say "yes" just because someone offers you a drink. Although you may receive pressure from your peers, it is perfectly acceptable to decline the next drink and opt for a nonalcoholic alternative. Think of a phrase you can use to politely decline or a way to politely leave the party.
National Institutes of Health, Alcohol and Aging
MedicineNet.com, Aging and Alcohol Use and Abuse
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Strategies for Cutting Down: Tips to Try
Mayo Clinic, Alcohol: If You Drink, Keep It Moderate
PsychCentral, Holiday Drinking: Keep It Safe
University of Notre Dame, Absorption Rate Factors