Aging and Alcohol Intake

by | May 6, 2020 | Longevity, Caregiving

Both drinkers and non-drinkers have varying opinions about the never-ending debate regarding alcohol’s long-term effects on the human body. A TIME Article entitled, “Why Do Heavy Drinkers Outlive Nondrinkers?,” states, “Moderate drinking, which is defined as one-to-three drinks per day, is associated with the lowest mortality rates in alcohol studies. Moderate alcohol use (especially when the beverage of choice is red wine) is thought to improve heart health, circulation and sociability.”

Moderation is definitely the key word to include alcohol in your diet, and it should be preceded by at least 8 – 16 ounces of water for hydration, based on your individual body weight. Alcohol is more easily processed when consumed with a meal. Weigh all the benefits of sipping a glass of wine with your dinner, which may include social interactions and eating at a slower pace, and consume only moderate amounts to relax blood vessels and raise the good cholesterol in your blood by approximately 5 percent. People who normally abstain from drinking and live a solitary life can benefit from sharing a toast or two at an occasional social function or family gathering that includes light-to-moderate alcohol consumption to enhance their social triggers.

Seek out the advice of a qualified professional if you regularly exceed the recommended alcohol intake for men of 4 units per day, which equates to approximately three regular bottles of standard 5% beer. Ten milliliters are the equivalent of one unit of alcohol. The recommended safe limit for men is 21 units of alcohol per week, with no more than 4 units a day. For women, the safe limit guideline is 14 units of alcohol per week and no more than 3 units a day is acceptable. Your body mass and general state of health should help determine whether that extra glass of wine is okay.

Chronic, excessive use of alcohol can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, inflammation of the pancreas gland, electrolyte disturbances, weight gain, nutritional deficiencies, damage to the nervous system, impaired concentration, elevated blood lipid levels, cardiomyopathy (swelling of the heart), cancer and a long list of psychiatric problems including depression and increased suicide risk.

Genetics or heredity plays a role in alcoholic liver disease in two ways: It may influence how much alcohol you consume and your likelihood of developing alcoholism. If someone in your family has suffered from alcoholism or if you recognize a drinking problem or an alcohol-related health issue, speak to your physician about treatment options and alternatives and seek counseling through local sources. If your lifestyle is conducive to popping the cork too often, make the necessary changes to implement restraint and extend your life.

Excessive alcohol intake can quickly reverse the benefits of moderation by reducing the vitamin absorption from nutrient-dense foods. Alcoholics and others that consume excessive amounts of alcohol can suffer from osteoporosis, gastrointestinal and liver distress. If fat makes up more than 5%-10% of the weight of your liver, you may have alcoholic liver disease (ALD), which can lead to serious complications. More than 15 million people in the U.S. abuse or overuse alcohol, and a shockingly-large amount – over 90%, develop fatty livers. And, it may also affect levels of liver enzymes involved in the breakdown (metabolism) of alcohol.

The ravages of lifelong heavy alcohol consumption on the human body may include permanent liver damage and obesity. If you’re overweight by more than 20 pounds, giving up the bottle may be the only way to avoid liver disease. A study by researchers from the Universities of Bristol and Glasgow tracked 9,000 men for an average of 29 years in Scotland to study the effects of alcohol consumption in relation to body mass index on liver disease. The smart approach would be to reduce safe drinking limits of overweight people to extend their lives and to avoid potential liver cirrhosis. The study revealed that obese men who drank at least a pint of beer a day – had the greatest risk of liver disease – 19 times higher than average weight non-drinkers. Findings also indicate that overweight women double the risk of liver disease just by drinking two glasses of wine a day. And if your drink of choice is high on the alcohol calorie chart, opt for one that offers a lower calorie count.

Research continues to straddle the fence on alcohol’s long-term effects, so side with caution as you age and apply the common-sense logic that tells you when to back away from the bar. Your body mass index, general state of health, medication interactions and food intake combine with alcohol to stir your nightly cocktail. It’s particularly important to realize that if your medication dosage or body chemistry has undergone a change, you alcohol consumption should follow suite. Re-evaluate your alcohol intake and review all drug and alcohol interaction advisories or discuss your specific concerns with your pharmacist or physician on a regular basis. Opt to drink a higher volume of water prior to imbibing in more than one serving to minimize the effects of alcohol absorption.

Before you decide to add alcohol to your next meal, get the facts about how much and which type of alcohol you should avoid. Check your wine’s ABV (alcohol by volume) to track how strong it is and what percentage of the drink is made up of alcohol. For example, wine with 12% ABV is 12% pure alcohol. Avoid wines with a high ABV percentage of 18% or more to minimize the negative impacts of alcohol in your system.