Author in the Room: Alcohol Consumption in Older Adults and Health Effects

July 2010 Author in the Room® Teleconference


Author: Kenneth J. Mukamal, MD, MPH, MA


Article: "A 42-Year-Old Man Considering Whether to Drink Alcohol for His Health"


Summary Points:

  • Careful alcohol histories are needed for all patients, particularly to identify binge drinking, which is frequent among moderate and especially younger drinkers.
  • Even moderate alcohol consumption has important and plausible health effects based on short-term trials and observational studies, including lower risk of heart disease presumably via higher HDL-cholesterol and higher risk of breast cancer (presumably via higher levels of estrone and DHEA sulfates).
  • Given these points, even controlled alcohol consumption is unlikely to benefit younger drinkers, but is a reasonable point of discussion for middle-aged and older adults, especially as a launching point for education about problem drinking and the potential risks and benefits of including alcohol as part of a healthy diet in older age.
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