Alcohol May Help Seniors Avoid Disability
Dr. Bob Goldman
New research suggests that light-to-moderate alcohol consumption may help to stave off the development of physical disabilities.
It’s been known for some time that moderate alcohol consumption can be good for you—for example, drinking a couple of glasses of wine can boost heart health. Results of a new study by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, however, suggest that seniors who are in good health can help themselves to remain so by enjoying the occasional tipple.
Dr. Arun Karlamangla and colleagues studied data of 4,276 men and women with a mean age of 60.4 years. At the start of the survey, 32 percent of men and 51 percent of women did not drink alcohol (defined as drinking fewer than 12 drinks per year), 51 percent of men and 45 percent of women were light-to-moderate drinkers (defined as drinking fewer than 15 drinks per week), and 17 percent of men and 4 percent women were heavy drinkers (defined as drinking more than 15 drinks per week). No participants had any disabilities at the start of the study.
At follow-up five years later, 7 percent of participants had died and 15 percent had become physically disabled, meaning that they had trouble performing or were unable to perform normal activities of daily living, such as walking, dressing and eating. After taking into account risk factors for disability, such as age, smoking, exercise and heart attack and stroke history, the researchers found that seniors who rated their health as good or better—and who consumed light-to-moderate amounts of alcohol—had reduced their risk of physically disability by 3 to 8 percent for each additional drink per week. No benefit was seen in seniors who rated their health as fair or poor, nor in heavy drinkers.
The authors concluded: “Light-to-moderate alcohol consumption appears to have disability-prevention benefits only in men and women in relatively good health. It is possible that those who report poor health have progressed too far on the pathway to disability to accrue benefits from alcohol consumption and that alcohol consumption may even be deleterious for them.”
Volunteer Work Promotes Longevity
Voluntary work benefits the community, and research suggests that it also benefits volunteers and may even help to promote longevity.
Seniors who do regular voluntary work have lower rates of heart disease and live longer than seniors who don’t, according to the latest issue of Mayo Clinic Women’s HealthSource. As well as boosting mental health, voluntary work provides seniors with a social network and can also help to stave off depression.
Studies have shown that 40 to 100 hours a year—just a couple of hours each week—of voluntary work is all that is needed in order to reap these health benefits.
Karlamangla, A.S., et al. (2009). Light-to-moderate alcohol consumption and disability: Variable benefits by health status. Am J Epidemiol. 169:96-104.
Volunteer: It’s good for you. (15 January 2009). Mayo Clinic.
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