Whether it’s a holiday party or a daily wind-down session, there are many occasions that might call for a glass of your favorite alcoholic beverage.
But have you ever wondered how alcoholic drinks affect you as an older adult? According to the National Institutes of Health, our tolerance for alcohol lowers as we age. Mix this in with other health and lifestyle factors and popping a bottle of bubbly too frequently could concoct a dangerous situation.
Before pouring your next glass, fill up on a few important facts!
What’s in a glass?
Is one 16-ounce mug of beer the same as two small glasses of wine? Can you really gain weight from drinking a martini or two? The NIH answers a few questions for those concerned about their alcohol intake.
• Count your servings. Having a sip of vino? You may be consuming more alcohol than you think. Know the facts; one serving of alcohol is equal to:
• 12 ounces of beer (5% ABV)
• 5 ounces of wine (12% ABV)
• 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, such as whiskey or vodka (50% ABV)
• Keep calories in check. Did you know one 9-ounce Piña Colada has almost 500 calories on average? Alcoholic drinks contain empty calories. Add fruit, syrup and other fixings and you will have racked up the caloric content of one meal — sometimes in just one drink!
• Mind your mixed beverages. From mojitos to Manhattans, mixed drinks and cocktails can be classy and very flavorful. But fruit and heavy syrup can mask the alcohol content, leading you to drink more than you realize if you’re not careful.
Matters that don't mix
Alcohol use greatly increases one’s risk of various health problems. This is especially true for seniors, who typically have a unique set of medical issues:
• Alcohol can alter the ability to control body movements; this can increase the risk of falls for older adults.
• Seniors are more likely to be diagnosed with chronic health conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes; alcohol can trigger symptoms or make a health problem worse.
Other concerns include:
• difficulty with alcohol tolerance
• family history of alcoholism
• prescription and over-the-counter medication use
• undiagnosed health problems
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, older adults who are healthy enough to drink should limit alcohol to no more than three beverages in one day (or more than seven drinks within a week).
Note that these recommendations do not encourage an increase in alcohol intake but serve as a helpful guide for people who choose to keep their lifestyle under control.
As with any diet and nutrition change, talk with your physician about whether you are healthy enough to make a toast with friends every now and then.
Helpful & healthy hints
• Choose delicious, refreshing alternatives, such as a soothing, invigorating herbal tea, or sparkling water with lime juice for a little tang and zest. And when you’re out on the town, don’t be afraid to ask if your favorite drink can be made without alcohol.
• Dehydration is serious, especially for seniors; adding alcohol to the mix makes the issue much worse. Be sure you are staying hydrated with plain water and refreshing foods, such as fruit and vegetables. This is especially essential during high temperatures when dehydration is common.
• Hang up the car keys. Even one serving of alcohol can affect your driving ability, putting you and others in danger; seniors, who are especially at risk of vision problems, should heed this caution.
• Try other ways to celebrate or wind down. After a long day, take an energizing walk or jog, go out with the family for frozen yogurt (and get extra fruit toppings) or read an inspiring novel until you fall asleep. And while you may be healthy enough to enjoy alcohol, there are countless other fun, healthy ways to make a toast to times worth treasuring.
If you or a loved one is fighting a battle with alcoholism and/or alcohol abuse, seek recovery through the help of a medical professional.