| Tue, Dec 12, 2017 @ 09:00 AM

Could Your Alcohol Use be Putting You at Risk?

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

senior couple in car smiling while drivingSome of us enjoy an alcoholic drink every once in awhile. Maybe it’s a glass of wine at dinner or a beer at the ball game. As long as you drink in moderation, you should be okay, right?

In most cases, moderate drinking is fine. But did you know that the older you get, the more sensitive you become to alcohol’s effects? That’s because there is less water in your body to weaken the influence of alcohol.

As you age, your body simply can’t handle the same amount of alcohol like it did when you were younger. And if your drinking habits stay the same or increase, you may develop a late-onset drinking problem.

Hidden Epidemic

Alcohol abuse among senior citizens is growing. It often goes undiagnosed and is sometimes mistaken for signs of aging, like a problem with balance.

According to the NIH (National Institutes of Health) Senior Health, certain life events can cause a late-onset drinking problem. These include:

  • Being diagnosed with a medical condition
  • Not working
  • Disability or pain
  • Sleep problems
  • Loss of spouse, friends or family members

The Dangers of Drinking Too Much Alcohol

Alcohol affects your judgment and can lead to risky behaviors and injuries. Drinking too much may cause or worsen a number of health problems. High blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease are just a few of these.

Drinking alcohol can be dangerous or even deadly if taken with some medications. Mixing the two may make you sleepy, confused and uncoordinated. This could lead to accidents or injuries.

Are Your Drinking Habits Harmful?

So, how do you know if you or a loved one may have a drinking problem? Early warning signs include repeatedly drinking more than you planned or struggling to quit or cut back.

You can use this tool to learn the symptoms of harmful drinking and which you may identify with. The tool offers feedback and gives steps you can take to change your drinking habits.

Help is Available

Medicare Part B (medical insurance) covers an alcohol misuse screening once per year. Certain outpatient treatment programs may also be covered. Treatment must be delivered by a doctor or other provider who accepts Medicare assignment.

Some Medicare Advantage plans (Part C) or Medicare supplement insurance plans may cover in-patient treatment programs. Check with your plan for details.


If you suspect that you or a loved one may have a drinking problem, talk to a doctor during your Medicare Wellness Visit or make an appointment sooner.

Related Content

Drinking can be Risky Business for Some Older Adults

For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.


Alcohol Use and Older Adults: NIH–National Institutes on Aging, Senior Health

Tips to try to reduce your risk of developing alcohol-related problems: NIH-National Institutes of Health, Rethinking Drinking

Understanding alcohol’s impact on your health: NIH-National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism


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