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Aging and Alcohol



Joined: 1/2/2012
Posts: 118
Suzanne
Our neighborhood is not classified as a "retirement community," but it does have a higher than average number of retired couples living among the "still working folks." The community lures the newly retired with a variety of home choices ranging from condos to estate homes and with its proximity to fishing, golf, tennis, culture and great healthcare facilities. It has an active social climate that invites neighbors to participate weekly in both organized and private events. Parties are a regular occurrence and liquor is always plentiful.

During the eleven years that we have been in the community we have witnessed more than our fair share of alcohol related over indulgences. Typically, the poor, unsuspecting victim is someone who is a moderate drinker at best, and far from being the neighborhood drunk.

Having witnessed this unfortunate condition, ranging from personal embarrassment to medical emergencies among my friends and neighbors, I started to think about why this is occurring within my peer group. So I asked myself a simple question - why can't we hold our liquor anymore? A bit of internet research confirmed some initial thoughts about aging and alcohol tolerance including the declining ability of our bodies to metabolize alcohol.

The actual standard recommendation for alcohol consumption put forth by the NIAAA, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism is no more than 3 drinks per day and 7 drinks per week. That recommendation is given for healthy adults over 65 who do not take medication. It is significantly lower than the standard for younger adults, obviously for good reason.

While my personal intake is not near the standard, I have recently noticed a diminished tolerance level. After just two drinks (5 to 6 ounces of wine per serving) I can begin to feel light-headed and slightly disoriented. This does not happen every time I drink, but it has happened and I needed to understand why. When I started to analyze my situation, I realized that I was more likely to feel the effects of alcohol after a physically or emotionally challenging day.

My theory, confirmed by a boat-load of scientist, is that there are many external factors including diet, exercise, and emotional stress that contribute to an occasional tolerance mishap, but none so important as the lack of water.

We are active, enthusiastic about retirement and full of energy. We ride bikes, hike mountains, play tennis, tend gardens and tee off eighteen holes three times a week. All the while expending energy that needs to be restored by healthy food and lots of water. Dehydration has many ill-effects on the body, and most definitely has a strong connection to alcohol tolerance.

A 2012 New York Times article about Boomers and alcohol cited changing body composition and decreased water volume due to lack of muscle, as a cause for quick absorption of alcohol into the system. As we age, muscle is replaced by fat and since most of our water is stored in muscle, it makes since that fast absorption can lead to fast impairment. Some studies suggest that having a glass of water between drinks will increase tolerance.

The more we understand about the effects of alcohol on our bodies, the more likely we are to make informed decisions about our level of consumption and the impairment that it may lead to.

This post is intended for legal adults who drink in proper moderation and should not be construed as encouragement to begin drinking.

If you have a drug or alcohol abuse problem, please seek professional help or contact your local chapter of AA at http://www.aa.org.
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Comment by warren


Joined: 6/22/2011
Posts: 293
Informative post, Suzanne. Thank you. I never noticed a tolerance decline, because we cut back from little to less when I started certain meds.
Posted: Thursday, March 7, 2013 2:46:31 PM
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Comment by linda.l.anderson


Joined: 2/21/2013
Posts: 4
Interesting post Suzanne. I've started to notice the same thing about myself! On one hand, it's too bad that I now have to be cautious about something I've worked hard at my whole life... :) on the other hand, I suppose you could say since it takes less to catch a buzz, that I'm saving money now!

Thanks for the heads up when you commented on my post DIY CPR. I'd entered the wrong URL for my blog. It's fixed now!
Posted: Saturday, March 9, 2013 5:55:13 PM
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