Study shows seniors may be at greater risk for alcohol impairment than teens
In the United States, as many as thirteen percent of men and eight percent of women over age sixty-five engage in risky drinking behavior.
An acute dose of alcohol may cause greater impairment in coordination, learning, and memory in the elderly than in young people, according to a study by Baylor University.
Researchers said the findings have profound significance for older people ó a population that is aging worldwide at an unprecedented rate and that includes Baby Boomers, as they become senior citizens.
"Health implications such as falls, accidents, and poor medicine-taking are pretty easy to conclude," said Douglas B. Matthews, Ph.D., senior author of the paper, published online in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
In the United States, as many as thirteen percent of men and eight percent of women over age sixty-five engage in risky drinking behavior, with an estimated one to three percent of those afflicted with an alcohol use disorder, according to prior research. Because of improvements in medicine and public health, nutrition and education, people sixty-five and older will account for nearly twenty percent of the U.S. population by the year 2030, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.
While previous data have indicated that aged people show significantly greater impairments than younger adults did when alcohol is consumed, understanding the neurobiology underlying that increased sensitivity in the aged has been hampered by the lack of an adequate animal model, said Matthews.
The Baylor research, the first of its kind, established a baseline of the acute effects of alcohol in aged populations, which can aid future research into neurobiology and in determining the effect of prolonged alcohol abuse
The experiment included adult and aged rats (at least eighteen months old), Matthews said. It showed a dramatic increase in ethanol-induced ataxia.
"We know a lot of neurobiological changes occur during aging which underlie age-related cognitive and behavioral deficits. It's reasonable to suspect a significant interaction exists between age-related and alcohol-induced effects in the brain," said Jim Diaz-Granados, Ph.D., a study co-author, chair of Baylor's department of psychology and neuroscience.
"Our hope would be that further findings in this area will serve as a basis to educate the public regarding the risks and provide insights in the clinic," Diaz-Granados said.
Also conducting research in the study was Adelle Novier, a doctoral student in psychology and neuroscience at Baylor.
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