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As we age, we become more sensitive to the effects of alcohol. We are also more likely to react more slowly and lose our sense of balance which can make us more unsteady and likely to fall. So even if we drink the same amount of alcohol it is likely to affect an older person more than a younger person.
There are no specific recommendations for the older person. The Department of Health recommends that men and women shouldn’t regularly drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week. If you do drink as much as 14 units per week, it is best to spread this evenly over three days or more.
Alcoholic drinks can be enjoyed and are unlikely to be harmful for most people within these limits. There is even some evidence that moderate drinking may be protective against heart disease.
But very little research has been done, and there are some particular problems for the older person. For example, health problems in older age can make us more susceptible to alcohol and can interfere with the effectiveness of many medicines. Check with your doctor about whether it is safe for you to drink with your particular health problem or medication.
Drinking too much can damage many parts of the body and increase the risk of health problems including:
- Stomach lining – ulcers or bleeding
- Liver - cirrhosis
- Cancer – mouth, stomach and liver
- malnutrition - alcohol has calories but can not provide the essential nutrients a balanced varied diet provides to keep us healthy.
Too much alcohol can also affect mental health including anxiety, depression, confusion and dementia.
If you think you may be drinking too much, talk to a health professional, there is support available.