If You're Over 65, Never Order These 5 Drinks, Experts Warn
You shouldn't be consuming alcohol the same way you did when you were younger.
It's clear that our tolerance to alcohol changes as we age. The nights of binge drinking and rallying that defined your college years aren't as easy in your 40s, 50s, or 60s. Instead, even just one or two drinks the day before could leave you stuck in bed with a massive hangover. It's not just in your head: As you get older, you develop an increased sensitivity to alcohol, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Alongside increased health problems and bad interactions with medications, older adults are often advised to stop drinking entirely once they reach a certain age. But if you do choose to still imbibe, the NIAAA recommends that you make sure you're in good health and not taking any medication, and that you limit your total alcohol consumption to no more than seven drinks per week. Health experts say you should also regulate what kind of alcoholic beverages you're drinking over the age of 65. Read on to find out what five drinks you should never order after a certain age.
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If you're looking to indulge in an alcoholic beverage here and there, don't go straight for the hard stuff. Christina Green, a health expert who writes about addiction and cofounder of My Speech Class, warns that adults over the age of 65 should avoid stiff drinks, which are strong alcoholic beverages that contain less mixers than alcohol. According to Green, you should resist any mixed drink that is more than 30 percent alcohol.
"Alcoholic drinks may cause seniors to feel 'high,' thereby increasing their risk of physical accidents, especially if they already have mobility issues," explains Angelina Chikhalina, a community relations director at Amica Senior Lifestyles, which operates more than 30 senior living residences. "There's also a risk when it comes to the combination of alcohol and medications which many seniors have to take. Such a mixture may place them at a significantly greater risk of serious medical issues such as stomach bleeding, drowsiness, and liver damage."
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While it's best to stay away from all hard liquors as you get up in years, some experts say specific types are worse than others. Mark Davis, MD, a physician working with Pacific Analytics, advises anyone past a certain age to steer clear of brandy. "Brandy should be avoided by people over 65 since it causes the most hangover symptoms, which can get difficult to handle," he explains.
Czarena Crofcheck, PhD, a food science professor at the University of Kentucky, told Thrillist in 2017 that brandy has the highest amount of congeners, which are chemicals produced during fermentation. According to experts, congeners are hard for the liver to break down which is what causes hangover symptoms like headaches.
If you're reaching in the cooler for a refreshing beer, you may want to pay attention to what you're grabbing before you crack it open. Davis encourages older adults to stick with light beers, which are much lower in alcohol than full-strength brews. However, it's important to point out that light doesn't refer to the color of the beer itself: That golden-hued IPA you grab could actually have more than twice the amount of alcohol of a jet black stout. When in doubt, check the label for the beer's alcohol by volume before you serve yourself.
If you can't seem to stomach the lighter stuff, at least make sure you're taking in plenty of water. "Ensuring that you are well hydrated if drinking alcohol is important at any age, but increasingly crucial as you get older," says Anthony Puopolo, MD, the chief medical officer at RexMD. "A good rule is to have a pint for a pint. For every pint you drink of beer, have a pint of water."
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While the NIAAA says older adults who are healthy can partake in a daily glass of wine, you might be better off staying away from certain bottles. Trista Best, a nutrition professor and registered dietitian at Balance One Supplements, says older adults should avoid wines made with a high amount of sulfites, which are both natural and additive chemicals often used to enhance many characteristics of wine like the appearance, taste, and shelf life.
White wines usually contain more sulfites than red wine, according to A Matter of Taste, but they are also especially prevalent in those "made with excess sugar, like Zinfandels," Best says. Davis recommends swapping your white wines for more reds when you get older, especially because the latter contains other positive factors. "Red wine has antioxidants that are beneficial for the body in fighting oxidative stress," he explains.
If you've developed a sweet tooth as you've gotten older, don't bring alcohol into the equation. Sweet drinks often mask the true amount of alcohol you're consuming, which can cause you to take in more than you were expecting. And these types of drinks are also dangerous for older adults with certain underlying medical conditions, like diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percentage of adults with diabetes increases with age in the U.S., with nearly 30 percent of people 65 years or older dealing with it.
"Sweet alcoholic drinks and hard rums mixed with sugary beverages are dangerous for diabetic seniors," Stephan Baldwin, a senior care expert and founder of Assisted Living, confirms. "Alcohol is already high in carbohydrates, which the body converts to glucose. Added sugars only increase the amount released into their system and could spike blood glucose levels beyond the immediate control of insulin medication."
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