Aging and Alcohol

Aging and Alcohol

Alcohol is one of the oldest—if not the oldest—drugs known to man. While light or moderate consumption generally carries with it no significant problems, as a person ages the effects of alcohol on his or her body can intensify in severity and scope.

Further, factors that may never have been a consideration when you were younger—such as your sensitivity to alcohol or the use of certain prescription medications—can come into play as you age. These factors can completely change your experience with alcohol and can even endanger you, your loved ones, and other people.

This article will explain some of the risks associated with the consumption of alcohol by elderly people. It will discuss the way an older person’s body reacts to the presence of alcohol as well as some of the things that can happen when alcohol is mixed with medications.

Alcohol and the Elderly Body

Moderate alcohol consumption—especially of products involving grapes, such as wines—has been linked to a decreased risk of heart disease in younger people. An interesting paradox is that alcohol consumption in people over the age of 65 actually seems to contribute to heart and circulatory system damage.

In addition, research has found that as a person ages, he or she becomes more sensitive to the effects of alcohol. This means that a person who formerly could consume a given amount of alcohol with no discernible effects on his or her coordination might begin to feel slightly tipsy or even drunk when drinking the same amount at an older age. It is important to be aware of this phenomenon so that an elderly person will not inadvertently overindulge in alcohol.

If you or an elderly person in your life have been diagnosed with diabetes or osteoporosis, you need to be aware that excessive alcohol consumption can make these problems worse as well as lead to new issues. Stroke, high blood pressure, and memory loss are among the other physical ailments that can be exacerbated by excessive intake of alcohol.

Elderly people are more likely to be taking medications than younger people. For this reason elderly people need to be aware of the ways in which alcohol can interact with various medications. The effects of some medications can be magnified if they are taken along with alcohol; on the other hand, other medications may prove to be less effective than they need to be because the consumption of alcohol can change the way the body interacts with the medications.

Elderly people need to be certain they read the labels on their medication for any warnings about whether it is safe to consume alcohol when using the medication. To neglect doing this can lead to serious consequences such as permanent liver damage, stomach damage, and an unforeseen inability to drive or even walk safely.


In sum, as you age, the way that your body responds to the consumption of alcohol can change greatly. In addition, if you are already suffering from age-related issues such as poor balance or diminished motor control, consuming alcohol may prove to be disastrously unsafe for you. Be aware that as you age, you become more sensitive to alcohol than you may have been in the past.

In addition, alcohol consumption can worsen certain diseases. When taking a medication of any type you need to be aware of how that medication will react to any alcohol in your system. If you have any questions, you should consult your doctor.

While the sensible use of alcohol can be a relaxing an enjoyable way to spend an evening when you are younger, as you age, you should seriously consider whether you wish to continue consuming alcohol. If you do decide to continue using alcohol you may wish at the very least to consider consuming less of it. If you are interested in cutting back your alcohol consumption—or stopping it altogether—there are many resources available to assist you in achieving your goals.


Harvard Medical School. Moderate Alcohol Consumption Associated with Heart Problems. August 1, 2015. Available at

National Institute on Aging. Older Adults and Alcohol: You Can Get Help. June, 2011. Available at