A healthy 80-year-old who plays golf three times a week and isn’t being treated for diabetes or high blood pressure will tend to tolerate alcohol better than someone younger or the same age who does have those diseases, he says.
Some people might notice as they age that they feel more intoxicated without increasing the amount of alcohol they drink. That’s because our body’s ability to process it slows down, says Dr. Gelb.
Response time and reflexes also slow as we age, putting older people at greater risk of falling, especially after consuming alcohol, says Gelb, who is a past president of the Pennsylvania Osteopathic Medical Association.
Drinking can also worsen the symptoms of some health problems, including memory loss, mood disorders and high blood pressure, and lead to other problems such as liver damage, cancer, brain damage and immune system disorders.
Dr. Gelb encourages his patients to consume alcohol moderately, if at all. When health complications arise among people who regularly consume alcohol, Dr. Gelb usually recommends patients reduce their intake, typically by about half. Sometimes patients are angry and sometimes they’re thankful, he says, and compliance varies, even among patients who are aware of the risks.
Ultimately, people make their own decisions, he says. For seniors who do decide to drink, he says it is very important to stay well hydrated.
“If you’re going to drink, you should be drinking a glass of water at least every other drink,” the physician says.