Over one in 10 US adults goes on binge drinking benders, a new study reveals.
Gulping down five or more drinks on a single occasion is dangerous – and may be especially to fall-prone older adults.
What’s more, alcohol may raise risks for or exacerbate chronic illnesses like heart or liver disease and high blood pressure.
Although binge drinkers were actually less likely to suffer from multiple chronic diseases, they were more likely to wind up in emergency rooms, underscoring the potential risks that seniors may be unaware of, the New York University team warns.
In recent years, the most typically rebellious age group – rowdy teenagers – have been drinking, smoking and having sex less, but US adults have picked up their slack in heavy drinking.
More than 10% of seniors 65 and older in the US binge drink five or more drinks at least once a month, raising their risks for heart disease or falls and exacerbating illnesses, a study found
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that one in six adults binge drink some four times a month.
Seniors, according to the new study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, are no exception.
And more of them are raising more glasses than in years past.
Previous studies found that between 7.7 and nine percent of people over 65 were having five or more drinks on a single night (or day).
Now, that number has risen to 10.6 percent, who had been on at least one bingeing bender in the past month.
Heavy session drinkers were more likely to be males, smokers and, curiously, people in relatively good health – or at least not suffering more than on chronic ailment.
‘This may be because some people stop or decrease their drinking when they have an illness or alcohol-related disease,’ said Dr Benjamin Han, lead study author.
Among those that binge drank and did suffer a chronic illness, most had high blood pressure, with 41.4 percent suffering from the condition, followed by heart disease and diabetes.
Drinking heavily over many years or even decades can itself raise blood pressure and even cause heart disease.
So while a glass of wine might be protective to your heart, as some studies have suggested, five or six or more have quite the opposite effect.
Aging is the number one risk factor for cancers taken together – and binge drinking is linked to higher risks for certain types of the disease, like colorectal, esophageal, breast, mouth and tongue cancers.
Plus, binge drinking overwhelms the liver, and can cause scarring, liver disease and contribute to liver cancer.
Alcohol is also damaging to memory, and with incurable Alzheimer’s on the rise, older Americans need to protect their abilities to remember as well as possible.
Then, of course, there are the accidents: falls, burns, crashes, cuts, scrapes, sprains and breaks.
For a younger adult, these accidents are risky enough.
But for older Americans, a trip to the ER or a broken bone can be the trigger for their ultimate decline toward death.
More older Americans are piling on an extra risk too, by smoking more marijuana.
Although the drug doesn’t have such dire consequences as binge drinking – which can even be deadly – it does only increase the impairment that a binge drinker suffers, making them even more apt to hurt themselves.
‘The association of binge drinking with cannabis use has important health implications,’ said study co-author Dr Joseph Palamar.
‘Using both may lead to higher impairment effects.
‘This is particularly important as cannabis use is becoming more prevalent among older adults, and older adults may not be aware of the possible dangers of using cannabis with alcohol.’
And the researchers say it doesn’t matter if seniors only binge occasionally. Doing it at all carries risks that are not worth the potential harm older Americans may suffer.
‘Binge drinking, even episodically or infrequently, may negatively affect other health conditions by exacerbating disease, interacting with prescribed medications, and complicating disease management,’ said Dr Han.