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Moderate Alcohol Use May Be Healthy for Seniors

For seniors in good health, light to moderate consumption of alcohol may also help prevent the development of physical disability.
For seniors in good health, light to moderate consumption of alcohol may also help prevent the development of physical disability.

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June 21, 2011

Moderate alcohol consumption has been found to be beneficial to healthy active seniors, according to research. That’s good news for older adults who like to socialize. Healthy, vibrant seniors can also look for ways to give back such as volunteering and even returning to part-time work such as caregiving.

Q. As socially active 75-year-olds, my husband and I enjoy a cocktail every now and then. Do you think that is bad for our health? We are both healthy seniors and always looking for ways to stay engaged including to help others.

Here’s some research you may find of interest. It is well known that moderate drinking can have positive health benefits--for instance, a couple of glasses of red wine a day can be good for the heart. But if you're a senior in good health, light to moderate consumption of alcohol may also help prevent the development of physical disability.

That's the conclusion of a UCLA study, in the American Journal of Epidemiology, which found that light to moderate drinking among these seniors reduced their odds of developing physical problems that would prevent them from performing common tasks such as walking, dressing and grooming.

"If you start out in good health, alcohol consumption at light to moderate levels can be beneficial," said lead study author Dr. Arun Karlamangla, an associate professor of medicine in the division of geriatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "But if you don't start out healthy, alcohol will not give you a benefit."

The researchers found that light to moderate drinkers in good health had a lower risk for developing new disabilities, compared with both abstainers and heavy drinkers. However, after controlling for confounding variables such as age, smoking, exercise, heart attacks and strokes, the benefits of alcohol consumption were seen only in seniors who rated their health as good or better.

There was a 3 to 8 percent reduction in the odds of developing disability with each additional drink per week in older men and women in good or better health who were not heavy drinkers, but there was no such benefit seen in those who rated their health as fair or poor.

Since you are both so healthy and active, why not consider a career in caregiving? Older adults are always in demand because they often serve as great companions to other seniors. They sometimes share the same interests, hobbies and perspectives. Caregiving also provides for additional part-time income, which can help many older adults on a fixed budget. Caregivers are trained in several non-medical companionship duties such as meal preparation, light housekeeping, medication reminders, errands and shopping – all of which can help keep other seniors independent longer.

For more about this study visit http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/moderate-alcohol-consumption-may-78427.aspx.

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