Report: Alcohol use on the rise among Wisconsin residents age 65 and older

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Alcohol abuse is associated with a doubled risk of atrial fibrillation, a new study finds. Drinking in excess also led to an increased risk of congestive heart failure, researchers say.

MADISON — Alcohol use is on the rise in Wisconsin adults age 65 and over, placing them at greater risk for injuries and death, according to a new analysis from the Department of Health Services (DHS).

The latest annual rates of current alcohol use, binge drinking, and heavy drinking among those age 65 and older are all higher than the previous year, according to the Wisconsin Epidemiological Profile on Alcohol and Other Drugs, 2016.

  • Fifty-six percent have had at least one alcoholic drink in the past 30 days.
  • Nine percent report binge drinking. For women, this is four or more drinks in about two hours. For men, this is five or more drinks in about two hours.
  • Six percent report heavy drinking, which is defined as eight or more drinks per week for women and 15 or more drinks per week for men.

The news release says one example of the dangers of these drinking habits is fatal falls. Vision problems and slow reaction times coupled with alcohol use have led to a steady increase in the number of fatal falls among Wisconsin residents in this age group. For example, in 2015, 365 older adults died as a result of alcohol-related falls in the state. This represents a 36 percent increase from 2010, when alcohol-related falls killed 269 older adults in Wisconsin.

The news release indicates older adults who are under the care of a physician or are using medications should check with their doctor about any use of alcohol. Alcohol can make some health problems worse, such as diabetes, heart conditions, high blood pressure, liver problems, and memory problems. Mixing alcohol with prescription or over-the-counter medications can be fatal.

Making a change in drinking habits can be hard. April is Alcohol Awareness Month, and now is the perfect time to take steps to better health.

  • Track the times, locations, and purposes for drinking.
  • Write down reasons to change.
  • Make a plan to cut back or quit drinking and stick to it.