Drinking Alcohol & Health Among Aging & Elderly

These resources focus on health problems that tend to be of interest to older persons, although by no means are they restricted to senior citizens.

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They are organized in the following categories:

  1. Heart Attacks and Cardiovascular Health
  2. Cancer
  3. Osteoporosis
  4. Parkinson's Disease
  5. Aging & Longevity
  6. Cognition & Thinking
  7. Dementia & Alzheimer's Disease
  8. Other Conditions

I. Heart Attacks and Cardiovascular Health

Cardiovascular Deaths and Alcohol

A ten-year study of men and women aged 60 and over found that cardiovascular deaths were significantly reduced among moderate drinkers.

Drinking Alcohol Improves Cholesterol among Postmenopausal Women

A study of postmenopausal women has found that, on average, one drink of alcohol a day is sufficient to lower the "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and that two drinks daily additionally raises the levels of "good" high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.

Alcohol Helpful after Stenting

Moderate drinking may help patients recover from coronary stenting to open blocked arteries, according to new research.

Drinking Alcohol Increases Survival from Acute Myocardial Infarction (AMI)

Drinking alcohol in moderation throughout the year before an acute myocardial infarction (AMI) appears to reduce the risk of dying afterward.

Moderate Drinking Found to Improve Prognosis after Surviving Heart Attack

A study of older patients who had suffered acute myocardial infarction (AM) who were followed over eight years found that the lowest risk for a second attack or death was lowest for those consuming approximately one to three drinks per day compared to abstainers and heavy drinkers. The risk of hospitalization for recurrent non-fatal AMI, stroke, or heart failure generally showed a similar pattern.

Alcohol after a Heart Attack Beneficial

Research has found that men who have had previous heart attacks, "moderate alcohol intake was associated with a significant decrease in total mortality," with those drinking two to six drinks a week at the lowest risk for dying compared to nondrinkers.

II. Cancer

Alcohol and Breast Cancer in the Elderly

It appears that the consumption of folates (folic acid) can dramatically reduce the effects of alcohol on breast cancer, the risk of which increases with age.

Drinking Alcohol and Vaginal Cancer Risk

Vaginal cancer usually develops after the age of 60. Drinking alcohol (wine, distilled spirits or beer) does not increase the risk of developing vaginal cancer. That's the conclusion of the National Cancer Institute, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, CancerHelp UK, the Mayo Clinic, and other leading medical organizations.

Alcohol and Kidney Cancer in Women

A large Swedish study found that, as a whole, women who consumed at least one drink per week enjoyed a 38% lower risk of renal cell carcinoma than did those who drank less or who abstained. However, for women over age 55, the risk of kidney cancer dropped by two-thirds (66%).

Moderate Alcohol Drinking and Reduced Risk of Kidney Cancer (or Renal Cell Cancer)

The moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages (beer, wine or spirits) appears to lower the risk of developing kidney cancer about 40% according to a report in the British Journal of Cancer of a large population-based case-control study of adult Swedish men and women without previously diagnosed renal cell cancer.

Colon Polyps

Moderate drinking appears to reduce the risk for colon polyps by 80% compared to abstainers. The drinks can be Beer, distilled spirits, or wine.

Drinking Alcohol and Fallopian Tube Cancer Risk

Fallopian tube cancer occurs most often between the ages of 50 and 66. The peak incidence is between ages 60 and 66. Drinking alcohol is not a risk factor for developing fallopian tube cancer or carcinoma. That's the conclusion of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the Australian National Centre for Gynaecological Cancers, CancerHelp UK, the Stanford University Cancer Center, the Abramson Cancer Center (University of Pennsylvania), the M.D. Abramson Cancer Center (University of Texas), and other medical organizations.

Drinking Alcohol and Vulvar Cancer Risk

The risk of vulvar cancer increases after age 60. Drinking alcohol does not increase the risk of developing vulvar cancer. That's the conclusion of the American Cancer Society, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the Mayo Clinics, and other leading medical organizations.

Drinking Alcohol May Reduce Risk of Lymphatic Cancer

Drinking alcohol may reduce the risk of developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma by over one-quarter (27%), according to researchers at the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health. In addition, alcohol's protective effect varies by form or subtype of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. For example, drinkers were about half as likely as non-drinkers to develop Burkitt's lymphoma.

Alcohol and Penile Cancer

Being age 60 or older increases the risk of developing cancer of the penis. Drinking alcohol is not a risk factor for penile cancer according to the National Cancer Institute, Cancer Research UK,2 the American Cancer Society,3 the American Society of Clinical Oncology,4 and other medical organizations.

III. Osteoporosis

Alcohol and Brittle Bones/Osteoporosis

Consuming one or two alcoholic drinks per day may protect women against brittle bones and osteoporosis, according to recent research.

Osteoporosis Risk Reduced

A study of over 200,000 postmenopausal women who were seen at doctors' offices, with no previous diagnosis of osteoporosis, found that drinking alcohol, estrogen replacement therapy, and exercise each reduced chances of developing osteoporosis.

Drinking Alcohol Protects against Low Bone Density and Osteoporotic Fractures

Moderate consumption of alcohol is associated with increased bone density and reduced risk of fractures caused by osteoporosis.

Researchers examined the evidence from 33 studies that met quality standards for inclusion in the analysis. They found that alcohol consumption increased femoral neck bone density for each drink per day over the range of 0-3 drinks per day; reduced the risk for hip fracture with increasing quantities consumed; and was generally associated with reduced bone loss over time, compared to abstention from alcohol.

IV. Parkinson's Disease

Drinking May Reduce Risk of Parkinson's Disease

People who consume alcohol appear to be less likely than abstainers to develop Parkinson's disease, according to research reported by doctors from Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Drinking and Parkinson's Disease

The research began with 13,977 residents of a southern California community who were studied from 1981 to 1998. As with other studies done by others, the researcher found alcohol consumption inversely associated with risk of Parkinson's Disease. In other words, abstaining from alcohol increases the risk of developing the disease.

V. Aging and Longevity

Slowing the Aging Process

Moderate drinking and exercise appear to slow down the health deterioration that occurs with aging, according to a geriatric study.

Abstaining, Nursing Homes & Mortality

A major Australian study has found that abstainers were twice as likely to enter a nursing home as people who were moderate drinkers. The 14-year study on elderly tracked the hospital and nursing admissions of nearly 3,000 residents of Dubbo, New South Wales.

The protective effect of moderate drinking applied equally to both men and women and regardless of alcohol beverage (wine, spirits, or beer) consumed.

The study also found that fewer of the drinkers than abstainers died during the study and that they spent less time in hospitals.

Moderate Alcohol Drinking, Health, and Longevity

The moderate consumption of alcohol has long been found associated with better health and greater longevity than either abstinence from alcohol or from heavy or abusive drinking.

Drinking Alcohol and Longevity: More Scientific Medical Research Evidence

A study followed 2,487 adults aged 70-79 for an average period of over five and one-half years. The risks of cardiac events (myocardial infarction, angina, or heart failure) and of all-cause mortality were significantly lower in light to moderate drinkers than in abstainers or occasional drinkers (those who drank <1 drink per week).

Alcohol Associated with Longevity

Another major medical research study has found greater longevity among men who drink moderately than among those who either abstain or drink heavily.

Moderate Drinkers Live Longer

An Italian study of men found that about two (2) years of life are gained by moderate drinkers (1-4 drinks per day) in comparison with occasional and heavy drinkers.

Overall Heart Health Improved by Drinking Alcohol

People who have a daily drink of beer, wine or distilled spirits (whiskey, rum, tequila, etc.) have significantly better arterial elasticity than nondrinkers.

VI. Cognition and Thinking

Moderate Alcohol Consumption & Better Cognitive Function in Women

A study of women age 65 and older found that those who consumed up to three drinks per day scored significantly better than non-drinkers on global cognitive function, including such things as concentration, memory, abstract reasoning, and language.

Moderate Drinking of Alcohol Improves Later Cognition

An 18-year long study of Japanese American men found "a positive association between moderate alcohol intake among middle-aged men and subsequent cognitive performance in later life" including attention, concentration, orientation, memory, and language.

Drinking Alcohol in Moderation Reduces Cognitive Impairment

Researchers examined the alcohol consumption and mental abilities of 15,807 Italian men and women 65 years of age and older. Among the drinkers only 19% showed signs of mental impairment compared to 29% of the abstainers.

Moderate Alcohol Consumption & Better Cognitive Function in Women

Consuming up to 3 drinks daily improved mental function in older women. Concentration, memory, abstract reasoning, and language were better among drinkers than non-drinkers, according to medical research.

Drinking Alcohol and Mental Functioning

Alcohol drinking was associated with reductions in mental decline in a study of older persons over a 7-year period. The study adds to the growing evidence that drinking in moderation helps reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

Moderate Alcohol Drinking Beneficial to Mental Functioning

Moderate consumption of alcohol found to be associated with superior mental function among older women compared to abstainers.

Moderate Alcohol Drinking Reduces Cognitive Decline among Elderly

Moderate alcohol consumption was associated with better cognition and lower dementia among elderly Brazilians in a recent study, the findings being consistent with much other research in other populations.

VII. Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease

A Drink of Alcohol Daily May Delay Dementia

Drinking alcohol daily may reduce the progression of dementia in people with mild cognitive impairment. Mild cognitive impairment is a transitional stage between normal aging and dementia that is used to classify people with mild memory or cognitive problems and no significant disability.

Drinking Alcohol may reduce Risk of Alzheimer's Disease

Elderly people who drink alcohol lightly or moderately are less likely to develop Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia than are those who do not drink.

Moderate Alcohol Drinking Is Associated With Nearly 40% Lower Risk of Dementia

Moderate alcohol intake of beer, wine or distilled spirits was associated with a 37% lower risk of dementia among those age 75 or older compared to non-drinkers.

Mediterranean Diet and Alzheimer's Disease Risk

Elderly persons who followed a Mediterranean diet, including regularly drinking alcohol (beer, wine, or liquor) in moderation, reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease by about 40 percent.

Drinking Alcohol, Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease

Summarizes research demonstrating that moderate drinking or consumption of alcoholic beverages (beer, wine, or liquor) reduces the risk of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.

Alcohol & Dementia

Moderate drinking could reduce the risk for dementia, according to research in JAMA.. Moderate drinkers were found to have a 54% lower chance of developing dementia than abstainers.

Moderate Alcohol Drinking Is Associated With Nearly 40% Lower Risk of Dementia

Alzheimer's disease, among elderly aged 75 or older. One to two drinks per day significantly lowered risk in this prospective study.

Drinking Alcohol and Dementia/Alzheimer's Disease

The moderate consumption of alcohol (beer, wine, or spirits) appears to reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

Alcohol and Dementia Risk

A review of research finds that in over half of the studies moderate consumption of alcohol (beer, win and liquor or spirits) significantly reduced the risk of cognitive loss or dementia. Only a few found evidence of any increased risk dementia.

Drinking Alcohol and Dementia/Alzheimer's Disease

The moderate consumption of alcohol (beer, wine, or spirits) appears to reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

Drinking Alcohol and Dementia

Alcohol drinkers in later life have reduced risk of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.

VIII. Other Conditions

Drinking Alcohol and Type 2 Diabetes (Adult Onset or Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes)

Light to moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages (beer, wine, distilled spirits) reduces risk of developing Type 2 diabetes (adult-onset or non-insulin dependent diabetes), according to scientific medical research studies.

Postmenopausal Women & Diabetes

Non diabetic postmenopausal women can reduce insulin concentrations and improve insulin sensitivity by consuming alcohol in moderation, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrition researchers.

Drinking Alcohol Daily Reduces Risk of Prostate Enlargement

Consuming alcoholic drinks daily reduces risk of benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) or enlarged prostate. Consuming 3 or more alcoholic drinks per day reduces risk 33% compared to alcohol abstainers or teetotalers.

Coffee Reduces the Risk of Alcoholic Liver Cirrhosis

study of 125,580 people between 1978 and 2002 found that drinking one cup of coffee per day cut the risk of cirrhosis, especially alcoholic cirrhosis, by one-fifth. Drinking four cups per day reduced the risk by 80%. This relationship held for both men and women of different racial categories.

Drinking May Reduce Risk of Blindness

The consumption of alcohol may reduce the risk of blindness from age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the major causes of blindness among those over age 65, according to a new study based on data collected by the federal government. Those who drank were found to be less likely to suffer this serious disease than were abstainers.

These findings may be especially important because there is currently no known way to prevent the disease and no known therapy to reduce the permanent blindness it causes. And AMD is expected to increase as the population ages.

More research is needed to confirm and clarify these very encouraging findings in other samples. While the most positive results were found at higher levels of consumption, the effect of different drinking levels needs to be examined in detail. It appears that while abstaining might increase the chances of becoming blind from AMD, other risk factors include cigarette smoking and prolonged, unprotected visual exposure to bright sunlight.

Alcohol & Gallstone Disease

Researchers investigated the relationship between alcohol consumption and a surrogate for gallstone disease (cholocystectomy) in a cohort of nearly 82,000 women. The investigators found that "The intake of all alcoholic beverage types is inversely associated with the risk of cholocystectomy." The lowest risk was found among women who drank slightly more than the one drink per day indicated in the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Drinking Alcohol May Reduce Risk of Developing Rheumatoid Arthritis

Consuming three drinks of alcohol per week appears to be protective against rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and ten drinks a week appears to provide even more protection against the disease.


This website is informational only. It does not make suggestions or recommendations and none should be inferred.

Readings on Drinking Alcohol and Health among Elderly
  • Anstey, K.J., et al. Alcohol consumption as a risk factor for dementia and cognitive decline: meta-analysis of prospective studies. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 2009, 17(7), 542-555.
  • Anstey, K. J., et al. Lower cognitive test scores observed in alcohol are associated with demographic, personality, and biological factors: The PATH Through Life Project. Addiction, 2005, 100(9), 1291-1301.
  • Espeland, M., et al. Association between alcohol intake and domain-specific cognitive function in older women. Neuroepidemiology, 2006, 1(27), 1-12.
  • Galanis, D. J., et al. A longitudinal study of drinking and cofgnitive performance in elderly Japanese American men: The Honolulu-Asia Aging Study. American Journal of Public Health, 2000, 90, 1254-1259
  • Ganguli, M., et al. Alcohol consumption and cognitive function in late life: A longitudinal community study. Neurology, 2005, 65, 1210-12-17.
  • Huang, W., et al. Alcohol consumption and incidence of dementia in a community sample aged 75 years and older. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 55(10), 959-964
  • Kalev-Zylinska, Maggie L. and During, Matthew J. Paradoxical facilitatory effect of low-dose alcohol consumption on memory mediated by NMDA receptors. Journal of Neuroscience, 2007, 27, 10456-10467.
  • Maraldi, C., et al. Impact of inflammation on the relationship among alcohol consumption, mortality, and cardiac events: the Health, Aging, and Body Composition Study. Archives of Internal Medicine, 2006, 166(14), 1490-1497.
  • McCallum, J., et al. The Dubbo Study of the Health of the Elderly 1988-2002: An Epidemiological Study of Hospital and Residential Care. Sydney, NSW, Australia: The Australian Health Policy Institute, 2003.
  • Mulkamal, K.J., et al. Prospective study of alcohol consumption and risk of dementia in older adults. Journal of the American Medical Association, 2003 (March 19), 289, 1405-1413.
  • Parsons, J., and Im, R. Alcohol Consumption is Associated With a Decreased Risk of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia. Journal of Urology, 2009, 182(4), 1463-1468.
  • Ritter, Malcolm. Study: Mediterranean diet can cut Alzheimer's risk. Charlotte Observer, April 20, 2006; Bakalar, Nicholas. Nutrition: Mediterranean diet looks good for Alzheimer's. New York Times, April 25, 2006.
  • Rodgers, B., et al. Non-linear relationships between cognitive function and alcohol consumption in young, middle-aged and older adults: The PATH Through Life Project. Addiction, 2005, 100(9), 1280-1290.
  • Ruitenberg, A., et al. Alcohol consumption and risk of dementia: the Rotterdam Study. Lancet, 2002, 359(9303), 281-286.
  • Scarmeas, N., et al. Mediterranean diet and risk for Alzheimer's disease. Annals of Neurology, 2006 (published online April 18, 2006).
  • Sink, K., et al. Moderate Alcohol Intake Is Associated With Nearly 40% Lower Risk of Dementia. Paper presented at Alzheimer's Association International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease. Vienna, Austria, July, 2009. (alz.org/icad/2010_release_071309_130am_c.asp)
  • Solfrizzi, Vencenzo et al. Alcohol consumption, mild cognitive impairment, and progression to dementia. Neurology, 2007, 68(2).
  • Stampfer, M.J., et al. Effects of moderate alcohol consumption on cognitive function in women. New England Journal of Medicine, 2005, 352, 245-253.