The holidays are a time of revelry and celebration, when food and drink tend to flow. When we get older, it’s not uncommon for our bodies to react differently to those foods and drinks we enjoyed when we were younger—especially alcohol. Some people become extra sensitive to alcohol, which means even a small amount could cause problems.
These problems aren’t just things like saying the wrong thing at the family party, either. They can include serious problems like falling, injury, or even something more dangerous, like a car accident.
Plus, if you take prescription medications, alcohol can interact with those in bad ways. For example, alcohol can make a medication less effective. If you take a medication with side effects, it can make those side effects feel worse, or even cause new symptoms that make you feel sick. Some medications enhance the effects of alcohol, making you feel drunker, or make your medication toxic to your body. Sleeping pills, mood stabilizers, antibiotics, and diabetes medications are just some of the things you should not drink alcohol while taking.
As you get older, your body takes longer to break down alcohol, meaning it stays in your blood and you may feel the effects longer.
Over time, excessive drinking can lead to:
Excessive alcohol consumption in older adults is sometimes hidden by what we think of as common signs of aging. Balance problems, falls, forgetfulness, and confusion are all side effects of age-related conditions as well as excessive alcohol intake.
For these reasons, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism suggests adults 65 and older shouldn’t drink more than 3 drinks in a day or 7 drinks in a week. This is for healthy adults who don’t take medications.
How your body reacts to alcohol isn’t the only age-related change to look out for. One other change to consider is your ability to drive. If you have difficulty driving at night, a late night may not be the best idea. Fortunately, this is an easily solvable problem. Consider making arrangements to stay the night or to get a ride home instead.
Additionally, since covid-19 cases are still surging in most areas, you could simply plan to gather virtually instead. Though it might not be the holiday event you’re used to, there are still plenty of ways to make safe memories.