It’s no surprise that when it comes to alcohol there is no ‘one size fits all’ on how it will affect you, but there is now a growing recognition that your tolerance to alcohol changes as you age.
Alcohol is one of the most commonly used drugs in Australia, and as many over-60s show no sign of slowing down when it comes to a drink there are some who believe a stronger public health message aimed directly at you is required.
“When we looked at data from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey released last year, we didn’t expect to find that more than 30 per cent of people over 60 were drinking at risky levels,” says Professor Ann Roche, director of the National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction at Flinders University.
She says older people expect to lead a full and active lifestyle that includes “socialising and alcohol”.
What the survey revealed was that many women in their 50s, 60s and 70s are drinking in 2016 when they didn’t drink before.
Because of physical changes occurring as you age, alcohol use has a greater impact. It means even a small amount of alcohol can increase your risk of accidents, including falls, fractures and car crashes.
The Council on the Ageing (COTA) says as you get older there is a greater risk of harm to your health from drinking alcohol.
“Drinking too much, even on one-off occasions, can cause problems for you at home, with your friends or with the law,” COTA says.
Differences in body size (women are often smaller), body fat and the way women’s bodies metabolise alcohol mean the same amount of alcohol consumed by men and women results in a higher blood alcohol concentration in women.
There are also risks if you are taking medication – especially with some health conditions such as high blood pressure, which is more common as you age. You should consult with your doctor about the risks of prescription medication for sleeplessness, heart conditions or other health issues mixed with alcohol.
“We don’t want to be alarmist,” senior lecturer in health promotion at Edith Cowan University, Dr Julie Dare says. “In general older people now are healthier than in previous generations.
An increased intake of plant foods, decreased amounts of meat, engaging in a physically active lifestyle and being socially interactive are just some of the healthy habits you can have.