Effects of alcohol and aging

According to the National Institute on Aging, the aging process affects how the body handles alcohol; the same amount of alcohol can have a greater effect as a person grows older. Over time, someone whose drinking habits haven't changed may find she or he has a problem. Facts about alcohol: Research has shown that as people age they become more sensitive to alcohol's effects. Medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, ulcers, and diabetes, can worsen with alcohol use. Many medicines prescription, over-the-counter, or herbal remedies can be dangerous or even deadly when mixed with alcohol, especially for older people because the average person over age 65 takes at least two medicines a day. If you take any medicines, ask your doctor or pharmacist if you can safely drink alcohol. Here are some examples why: Aspirin can cause bleeding in the stomach and intestines. The risk of bleeding is higher if you take aspirin while drinking alcohol. Cold and allergy medicines (antihistamines) often make people sleepy. When combined with alcohol this drowsiness can be worse. Alcohol used with large doses of the pain killer acetaminophen can raise the risk of liver damage. Some medicines have high alcohol content. Even drinking a small amount of alcohol can impair judgment, coordination, and reaction time. It can increase the risk of work and household accidents, including falls and hip fractures. It also adds to the risk of car crashes. Heavy drinking over time also can cause certain cancers, liver cirrhosis, immune system disorders, and brain damage. Alcohol can make some medical concerns hard for doctors to find and treat. Alcohol causes changes in the heart and blood vessels; this can dull pain that might be a warning sign of a heart attack. The Senior Connection is a column provided by the Clinton County Office for the Aging. For more information about services for senior citizens, contact their office at 135 Margaret St., Suite 105, Plattsburgh or call them at 565-4620.

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