Alcohol and Aging

I’m currently reading this book. Below I have added some observations from the first five chapters. The book has 17 chapters in total, covering a wide variety of topics. I like the coverage so far. All the highlighted observations below were highlighted by me; they were not written in bold in the book.

“Alcohol consumption and alcohol-related deaths or problems have recently increased among older age groups in many developed countries […]. This increase in consumption, in combination with the ageing of populations worldwide, means that the absolute number of older people with alcohol problems is on the increase and a real danger exists that a “silent epidemic” may be evolving [2]. Although there is growing recognition of this public health problem, clinicians consistently under-detect alcohol problems and under-deliver behaviour change interventions to older people [8, 9] […] While older adults historically demonstrate much lower rates of alcohol use compared with younger adults [4, 5] and present to substance abuse treatment programs less frequently than their younger counterparts [6], substantial evidence suggests that at-risk alcohol use and alcohol use disorder (AUD) among older adults has been under-identified for decades [7, 8]. […] Individuals who have had alcohol-related problems over several decades and have survived into old age tend to be referred to as early onset drinkers. It is estimated that two-thirds of older drinkers fall into this category [2]. […] Late-onset drinking accounts for the remaining one-third of older people who use alcohol excessively [2]. Late-onset drinkers usually begin drinking in their 50s or 60s and tend to be of a higher socio-economic status than early onset drinkers with higher levels of education and income [2]. Stressful life events, such as bereavement or retirement, may trigger late-onset drinking […]. One study demonstrated that 70 % of late-onset drinkers had experienced stressful life events, compared with 25 % of early onset drinkers [17]. Those whose alcohol problems are of late onset tend to have fewer health problems and are more receptive to treatment than those with early onset problems […] Our data highlighted that losing a parent or partner was often pinpointed as an event that had prompted an escalation in alcohol use […] A recent systematic review which examined the relationship between late-life spousal bereavement and changes in routine health behaviour over 32 different studies [however] found only moderate evidence for increased alcohol consumption [41].”

“Understanding alcohol use among older adults requires a life course perspective [2] […]. Broadly speaking, to understand alcohol consumption patterns and associated risks among older adults, one must consider both biopsychosocial processes that emerge earlier in life and aging-specific processes, such as multimorbidity and retirement. […] In the population overall, older adulthood is a life stage in which overall alcohol consumption decreases, binge drinking becomes less common, and individuals give up drinking. […] data collected internationally supports the assertion that older adulthood is a period of declining drinking. […] Two forces specific to later life may be at work in decreasing levels of alcohol consumption in late life. First, the “sick-quitter” hypothesis [12, 13] suggests that changes in health during the aging process limit alcohol consumption. With declines in health, older adults decrease the quantity and frequency of their drinking leading to lower average consumption in the overall older adult population [11, 14]. Similarly, differential mortality of heavy drinkers may lead to decreases in alcohol use among cohorts of older adults; these changes in average drinking may be a function of early mortality of heavy drinkers [15]. Although alcohol use generally declines throughout the course of older adulthood, the population of older adults exhibits a great deal of variability in drinking patterns. […] longitudinal research studies have found that older men tend to consume alcohol at higher levels than women, and their consumption levels decline more slowly than women’s [6]. […] National survey data [from the UK] estimate that approximately 40–45% of older adults (65+) drank alcohol in the past year […] Numerous studies suggest that lifetime nondrinkers are more likely to be female, display greater religiosity (e.g., attend religious services), and have lower levels of education than their moderate drinking peers [20, 21]. […] Older adult nondrinkers are a heterogeneous population, and as such, lifetime nondrinkers and former drinkers should be studied separately. This is especially important when considering the issue of health and drinking because the context for abstinence may be different in these two groups [23, 24].”

“[V]ersion 5 of the DSM manual abandoned separate alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence diagnoses, and combined them into a single diagnosis: alcohol use disorder (AUD). […] The NSDUH survey estimated a past-year prevalence rate of alcohol abuse or dependence of 6.1 % among those aged 50–54 and 2.2 % among those ages 65 and older. […] AUD is the most severe manifestation of alcohol-related pathology among older adults, but most alcohol-related harm is not a function of disordered drinking [55]. […] older adults commonly take medications that interact with alcohol. A recent study of community-dwelling older adults (aged 57+) found that 41% consumed alcohol regularly and among regular alcohol consumers, 51 % used at least one alcohol interacting medication [57]. An analysis of the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing identified a high prevalence of alcohol use (60 %) among individuals taking alcohol interacting medications [58]. Falls are also a common health concern for older adults, and there is evidence of increased risk of falls among older adults who drink more than 14 drinks per week [59] […] a study by Holahan and colleagues [44] explored longitudinal outcomes for individuals who were moderate drinkers (below the weekly at-risk threshold) but who engaged in heavy episodic drinking (exceeded day threshold). Individuals were first surveyed between the ages of 55 and 65 and followed for 20 years. Episodic heavy drinkers were twice as likely to have died in the 20-year follow-up period compared with those who were not episodic heavy drinkers […to clarify, none of the episodic heavy drinkers in that study would qualify for a diagnosis of AUD, US] […] Alcohol use in the aging population has been defined through various thresholds of risk. Each approach brings certain advantages and problems. Using alcohol related disorders as a benchmark misses many older adults who may experience alcohol-related consequences to their health and well-being even though they do not meet criteria for disordered drinking. More conservative measures of alcohol risk may identify at-risk drinking in those for whom alcohol use may never compromise their health. […] among light to moderate drinkers, the level of risk is uncertain.

Among adults 65 years old and older in 2000–2001, just under 49.6% reported lifetime use [of tobacco] and 14% reported use in the last 12 months [30]. […] Data collected by the Centers for Disease Control in 2008 revealed that only 9% of individuals aged 65 and older reported being current smokers [42]. […] data from the 2001–2002 NESARC reveal a strong relationship between AUDs and tobacco use […] in 2012, 19.3% of adults 65 and older reported having ever used illicit drugs in their lifetime, whereas 47.6% of adults between the ages 60 and 64 reported lifetime drug use. […] In the 2005–2006 NSDUH […] 3.9% of adults aged 50–64, the bulk of the Baby Boomers at that time, reported past year marijuana use, compared to only 0.7% of those 65 years old and older [53]. Among those aged 50 and older reporting marijuana use, 49% reported using marijuana more than 30 days in the past year, with a mean of 81 days. […] The increasingly widespread, legal availability and acceptance of cannabis, for both medicinal and recreational use, may pose unique risks in an aging population. Across age groups, cannabis is known to impair short-term memory, increase one’s heart and respiratory rate, and elevate blood pressure [56]. […] For older adults, these risks may be particularly pronounced, especially for those whose cognitive or cardiovascular systems may already be compromised. […] Most researchers generally consider existing estimations of mental health and substance use disorders to be underestimations among older adults. […] Assumptions that older adults do not drink or use illicit substances should not be made.

“Although several studies in the United States and elsewhere have shown that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with reduced risk for heart disease [16–20] and that heavy intake is associated with increased risk of CVD incidence [6, 21] and all-cause mortality in various populations […], data specific to effects of alcohol in elderly populations remain scant. The few studies available, e.g., the Cardiovascular Health Study, suggest that moderate alcohol use is beneficial and may be associated with reduced Medicare costs among individuals with CVD [25]. The benefits and risks of alcohol consumption are dose dependent with a consistent cut-point for cardiovascular benefits being 1 drink per day for women and about 2 drinks per day for men [21]. These cut-points have also been observed for associations between alcohol consumption and all-cause mortality [21, 26]. Although there are many similarities in the effects of alcohol on CVD across many populations, the magnitude and significance of the association between amount of alcohol consumed and CVD risk remain inconsistent, especially within countries, regions, age, sex, race, and other population strata […] As shown in a recent review [33], a drinking pattern characterized by moderate drinking without episodes of heavy drinking may be more beneficial for CVD protection when compared to patterns that include heavy drinking episodes. […] In additional to amount of alcohol consumed per se, the pattern of alcohol consumption, commonly defined as the number of drinking days per week is also associated with CVD outcomes independent of the amount of alcohol consumed [18, 24, 34–37]. In general, a drinking pattern characterized by alcohol consumption on 4 or more days of the week is inversely associated with MI, stroke, and CVD risk factors“.

“The relation between moderate alcohol consumption and intermediate CVD markers was summarized in two recent reviews [6, 42]. Overall, moderate alcohol consumption is associated with improved concentrations of CVD risk markers, particularly HDL-C concentrations [18, 31, 43, 44]. Whether HDL-C resulting from moderate alcohol intake is functional and beneficial for cardioprotection remains unknown […] While moderate alcohol consumption shows no appreciable benefit on LDL-C, it is associated with significant improvement in insulin sensitivity […] Alcohol intake may also influence CVD markers through its effects on absorption and metabolism of nutrients in the body. This is critical especially in the elderly who may have deficiencies or insufficiencies of nutrients such as folate, vitamin B12, vitamin D, magnesium, and iron. Indeed, moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to improve status of nutrients associated with cardiovascular effects. For example, it improves iron absorption in humans [52, 53] and is associated with higher vitamin D levels in men [54]. […] heavy alcohol consumption [on the other hand] leads to deficiencies of magnesium [55], zinc, folate [56], and other nutrients and damages the intestinal lining and the liver impairing nutrient absorption and metabolism [57]. These effects of alcohol are likely to be worse in the elderly. […] chronic heavy drinking lowers magnesium [55], a nutrient needed for proper metabolism of vitamin D [58], implying that supplementation with vitamin D in heavy drinkers may not be as effective as intended. These effects of alcohol could also extend to prescription medications that are in common use among the elderly. […] Taken together, moderate alcohol seems to protect against cardiovascular disease across the whole life span but the data on older age groups are scanty. Theoretical considerations as well as emerging data on intermediate outcomes such as lipids, suggest that moderate alcohol could beneficially interact with medications such as statins to improve cardiovascular health but heavy alcohol could worsen CVD risk, especially in the elderly.”

Alcohol is one of the main risk factors for cancer, with alcohol use attributed to up to 44% of some cancers [2, 3] and between 3.2 and 3.7 % of all cancer deaths [4, 5]. Since 1988, alcohol has been classified as a carcinogen [6]. Types of cancers linked to alcohol use include cancers of the liver, pancreas, esophagus, breast, pharynx, and larynx with most convincing evidence for alcohol-related cancers of the upper aerodigestive tract, stomach, colorectum, liver, and the lungs [2, 7]. All of these cancers have a much higher incidence and mortality rate in older adults […] For alcohol-associated cancers, 66–95% of new cases appear in those 55 years of age or older [8, 9]. For alcohol-associated cancers, other than breast cancer, 75–95 % of new cases occur in those 55 years of age or older [8, 10, 11]. […] Four countries with a decline in alcohol use (France, the UK, Sweden, and US) have […] demonstrated a stabilization or decline in the incidence and mortality rates for types of cancers closely associated with alcohol use [12]. […] The increased risk for cancer related to alcohol use is based on a combination of both quantity/frequency and duration of use, with those consuming alcohol for 20 or more years at increased risk [14]. […] consumption of alcohol at lower levels may also increase the risk for alcohol-related cancers. Nelson et al. reported that daily consumption of 1.5 drinks or greater accounted for 26–35% of alcohol-attributable deaths [5]. Thus, the evidence is growing that daily drinking, even at lower levels, increases the risk for developing cancer in later life with the conclusion that there may be no safe threshold level for alcohol consumption below which there is no risk for cancer [6, 16, 17].”

The risk for developing alcohol-related cancer is increased among those who have a history of concurrent tobacco use and at-risk alcohol use […] Among individuals who have a history of smoking two or more packs of cigarettes and consuming more than four alcoholic drinks per day, the risk of head and neck cancer is increased greater than 35-fold [22]. […] At least 75 % of head and neck cancer is associated with alcohol and tobacco use[9]. […] There are gender differences in alcohol attributable cancer deaths with over half (56–66 %) of all alcohol-attributable cancer deaths in females resulting from breast cancer [5]. […] For women, even low-risk alcohol use (5–14.9 g/day or one standard drink of alcohol or less) increases the risk of cancer, mainly breast cancer [18]. […] Alcohol use during cancer treatment can complicate the treatment regimen and lead to poor long-term outcomes. […] Alcohol use is correlated with poor survival outcomes in oncology patients. […] Another issue for patients during cancer treatment is quality of life. Alcohol consumption at higher levels […] or patients who screened positive for a possible AUD during cancer treatment experienced worse quality of life outcomes, including problems with pain, sleep, dyspnea, total distress, anxiety, coping, shortness of breath, diarrhea, poor emotional functioning, fatigue, and poor appetite [58, 59]. Current alcohol use has also been associated with higher pain scores and long-term use of opioids [48, 49].”


May 14, 2018 - Posted by | Books, Cancer/oncology, Cardiology, Epidemiology, Medicine

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