The Pitfalls of Holiday Alcohol

Publication Date: 
Mon, 12/01/2014
By: Alere Staff

Alcohol and the Elderly

As the holiday season begins, the list of things to do and consider is long. Many of these are things that you know already and likely range from planning gifts to buy, sending out holiday cards to the amount of rich food and desserts you will be eating. One thing that is not commonly considered is the risk of a loved one falling brought on by the consumption of too much alcohol. While there are many situations that increase a person’s risk of falling, nothing makes a person more wobbly on their feet than one too many spiked eggnogs.

Alcohol and the Elderly

As our bodies age, its ability to withstand the effects of alcohol dwindles. So, while the amount of alcohol you drink may not change, the way it affects you will. The first reason is because older people metabolize, or break down, alcohol more slowly than younger people, keeping alcohol in your bloodstream for a longer period of time. Another reason is that as you age the amount of water in your body decreases.Alcohol consumption can also make some health conditions worse including diabetes, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, liver problems, and memory problems.1 Enjoying a holiday drink this year at Christmas dinner can increase your risk of a fall, even if you consume the same amount as last year. 

If you are a patient on warfarin, drinking alcohol can have other undesirable affects. Alcohol combined with warfarin can elevate the INR level, particularly if consumed in excess.2 Combined with a higher risk of falling, as a patient on warfarin, you should take precautions to protect yourself from injury. If you do have a fall, injury or notice excessive bruising, you should contact your doctor for an evaluation right away. 

Emergency Room Visits

Sometimes a bad fall can include a visit to the emergency room. In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of emergency room visits for the geriatric population with falls being the leading cause of geriatric trauma mortality. Approximately one third of people over age 65 suffer a fall every year.3 Patients who injure themselves and require emergency room care may experience a loss of functions for significant periods of time.

The holidays don’t have to be dangerous. Play it safe when it comes to both your food and beverages, particularly if you are a warfarin patient. Also, guidelines suggest adults over 65 who are healthy and do not take medications should not have more than three drinks on a given day or seven drinks in a week. Drinking more can put you at risk for more serious alcohol problems.4 Being aware of these possible dangers will help you enjoy your holidays in a safe and fun way. Besides, no one wants to hit the deck instead of decking the halls. 

For more information on how alcohol affects patients on warfarin check out our article here.

References:

  1. Alcohol Use and Older Adults. NIH Senior Health. (October 2012). Retrieved from the NIH Senior Health website November 18, 2014 at: http://nihseniorhealth.gov/alcoholuse/alcoholandaging/01.html
  2. Safety and First Aid. PTINR.com article found at: http://www.ptinr.com/warfarin-you/safety-first-aid.
  3. Carpenter, C. R. MD, MSc. (2014). Geriatric Care Pearls: ACEP14. Medpage Today. Retrieved October 31, 2014, from http://www.medpagetoday.com/MeetingCoverage/ACEP/48346.
  4. Older Adults. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Retrieved November 18, 2014 from the NIH website at: http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/special-populations-co-occurring-disorders/older-adults