Sensitivity to alcohol’s effects

The National Institute on Aging shared that as people age, they may become more sensitive to alcohol’s effects. The same amount of alcohol can have a greater effect on an older person than on someone who is younger. Over time, someone whose drinking habits haven’t changed may find she or he has a problem.

The way the body handles alcohol can change with age.  A person  can have the same drinking habits they did when they were younger, but changes in their body can make them feel “high” without increasing the amount of alcohol they drink. This can lead to accidents like falls and fractures, as well as car crashes.

Drinking too much alcohol over time can:

  • Lead to some kinds of cancer, liver damage, immune system disorders, and brain damage
  • Worsen some health conditions like osteoporosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, ulcers, memory loss, and mood disorders
  • Make some medical problems hard for doctors to find and treat—for example, alcohol causes changes in the heart and blood vessels. These changes can dull pain that might be a warning sign of a heart attack.
  • Cause some older people to be forgetful and confused—these symptoms could be mistaken for signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

Learn more about alcohol and older adults on our website or at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website.


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