Over 70? Having This Many Alcoholic Drinks a Week Lowers Your Death Risk
A study finds that moderate drinking could potentially add years to your life.
As you age, staying on top of your health usually involves staying active, maintaining a healthy diet, and dropping any bad habits such as smoking. But when it comes to the topic of having the occasional glass of wine or cocktail, studies have gone back and forth on whether a tiny tipple now and then could be beneficial or harmful in any way. Now, a new study has added evidence to the pile that seniors aged 70 and older could lower their death risk by having a small number of alcoholic drinks each week. Read on to see how much you may need to raise a glass to your heart health.
Drinking three and a half to seven drinks a week can lower the death risk in seniors 70 and older.
The latest study—which was conducted by researchers at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia and published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology on Oct. 28—set out to fill in the gaps left by the numerous other studies focusing on the effect alcohol has on health by focusing on older individuals. The team gathered more than 18,000 seniors with an average age of 74 described as healthy, with no history of physical disability, heart disease, or dementia.
Through an assessment survey, researchers found that 18.6 percent of participants didn't drink any alcohol at all during each week, 37.3 percent drank one to 50 grams—or the equivalent of up to three drinks—per week, 19.7 percent consumed 51 to 100 grams—or 3.5 to seven drinks, and 15.6 percent imbibed a weekly equivalent of seven to 10 drinks consisting of 101 to 150 grams. Another group consisting of 8.9 percent of participants reported having 150 grams or more per week, equivalent to having more than 10 drinks.
The team then followed up with participants for close to five years to assess how alcohol intake might affect the onset of heart disease, stroke, non-fatal heart attacks, and hospitalization from heart failure, according to a press release. Results found that the group who drank 3.5 to seven drinks per week had a lower risk of death than all other groups considered in the study.
Those who reported drinking some alcohol still had better health outcomes than those who drank none.
But it wasn't just moderate drinking that appeared to have a positive impact on health. Those in the groups who consumed 51 to 100 grams, 101 to 150 grams, and over 150 grams per week were all found to be at lower risk of cardiovascular disease than the group that reported drinking no alcohol whatsoever.
The study's author said the findings aren't a green light to overindulge in alcohol.
Still, the researchers warned that the results aren't meant to be taken as permission to begin drinking to excess in your later years. According to Johannes Neumann, MD, the study's lead author, heavy drinking can still lead to other major health problems, including liver disease and cancer. He also pointed out that beginning with a large group of seniors who were already healthier and more active than the average population could've factored into the findings.
For more health news sent right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Other studies have found that moderate wine drinking can also help boost brain health.
Other recent research has explored the health effects alcohol can have on seniors, including a June 2020 study from the University of Georgia that found light to moderate drinking may preserve cognitive function in older age. "We know there are some older people who believe that drinking a little wine every day could maintain a good cognitive condition," Ruiyuan Zhang, a doctoral student at UGA's College of Public Health and study's lead author, said in a statement.
The study tracked the cognition of nearly 20,000 participants over the course of 10 years. Every two years, respondents answered a series of questions on various aspects of their life, including drinking habits. Researchers then measured the participants' cognitive function through a series of tests, including word recall and vocabulary, to gauge their overall mental status. Middle-to-older-aged participants who engaged in light to moderate drinking—defined as fewer than eight drinks per week for women and 15 drinks or fewer per week among men—scored higher on the cognitive tests and showed lower rates of decline in each domain.
According to the study, the ideal number of drinks per week is between 10 and 14, but Zhang noted that this shouldn't motivate people to start drinking more if they fall below this threshold. "It is hard to say this effect is causal," he noted. "So, if some people don't drink alcoholic beverages, this study does not encourage them to drink to prevent cognitive function decline."