Think back to the lifestyle you lived in your teens and twenties. Could you eat whatever you wanted without fear of putting your stomach in knots? Did you drink beer, wine and liquor at house parties and events without worrying about what all that alcohol was doing to your body?
When you’re young, you feel invincible. But for better or worse, your body naturally changes with age. Now, you can’t eat loads of junk food without feeling sick and you certainly can’t drink excessively without alcohol negatively impacting your health.
Alcohol abuse doesn’t discriminate by age, but it can lead to more severe health problems for older adults. Fortunately, you may be able to ward off the following health complications with the right care and addiction treatment.
The Most Common Health Effects of Alcohol for Older Adults
Alcohol addiction means that everything else in your life, including your own health, takes a back seat; When you’re going to drink that next can of beer or bottle of liquor is all that matters.
Unfortunately, continuing to abuse alcohol on a daily basis can lead to the following health complications:
1. Cancer. Even without alcohol, your risk for cancer increases with age. As you get older, you’re exposed to more toxins from sunlight, the environment and foods that you eat, which leads to mutations in your cells. Excessive alcohol intake can considerably raise your risk of cancer, as it leaves you more vulnerable to cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, colon, liver and rectum.
2. Heart Disease. While there is some research that suggests moderate drinking can improve your heart health, heavy drinking raises your blood pressure and can lead to cardiomyopathy, or disease of the heart muscle. Alcohol can also indirectly affect your heart, since the empty calories lead to weight gain. Long-term, this unhealthy lifestyle can put pressure on your heart and increase your risk of heart attacks and heart disease.
3. Gastrointestinal Disease. Alcohol abuse wreaks havoc on your entire digestive system. It attacks the lining of your stomach and esophagus, which can lead to ulcers, bleeding and increased risk of stomach and esophageal cancers. It can also lead to fatty liver disease as your liver tries to break down and metabolize the toxins from alcohol.
4. Cognitive Impairment. Alcoholism also impacts your brain and impairs your cognitive ability. Memory loss is common with excessive drinking. However, a more serious condition is alcohol-related dementia. If you continue to abuse alcohol, you could experience this type of dementia accompanied by cerebral atrophy.
5. Poor Immune Health. Alcohol prevents your digestive system from absorbing key nutrients it needs to stay healthy and ward off bacteria, infections and viruses. Alcohol abuse ultimately derails your immune health, making you more likely to catch colds and flus more often, and leaving you vulnerable to additional viruses your body may have been better equipped to handle if it wasn’t for your drinking.
Why Alcohol is More Dangerous as You Age
While younger people can also experience these negative effects from alcohol, there are three key reasons why heavy drinking is more dangerous for older adults:
Less Muscle – Muscle absorbs alcohol faster than fat does, keeping it from entering the bloodstream right away. However, aging results in more fat and less muscle, which means if you drink excessively as an older adult, more of that alcohol is flowing through your blood stream than it was when you were younger.
Less Water – Older adults have less water in their bodies than people under the age of 20 do. Drinking heavily at an older age puts you at increased risk of dehydration and puts more strain on your kidneys.
Slower Rates of Absorption – Systems in your body slow down as you age, including your digestion and metabolism. Since it takes longer for your body to digest alcohol than it used to, the substance has more time to damage your organs and leave you at risk for the diseases and conditions mentioned above.
Heal Your Body from Alcohol Addiction at The Raleigh House
While the health complications associated with alcohol abuse are very real, they don’t necessarily have to be your future. At The Raleigh House, we leverage a gold standard continuum of care, an evidence-based treatment approach and a pro-recovery diet to heal your body from alcohol addiction and help you rebuild a healthy, sober and active lifestyle.
Don’t wait until you experience severe health complications from your addiction to seek help. Contact our admissions team today to learn about our alcohol addiction treatment and to find out how to get started.