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Weekly Health Tip

All adults above 60 years of age and those with chronic illness such as COPD, asthma or diabetes must have a Pneumonia vaccine every 10 years. The yearly flu vaccine is recommended for everyone. So, get your flu vaccine between October and March each year. It protects against a potentially dangerous infection and does not cause any significant illness.

 

Health News

Alcohol use should be limited in the elderly

A recent study helped define what may be a healthy level of alcohol consumption in the elderly. The study included 4,466 people older than 65 who were studied for more than 10 years. Alcohol use was divided into four categories:

  • Nondrinkers
  • No more than 7 drinks per week
  • 7 to 14 drinks per week
  • More than 14 drinks per week

The authors found a number of significant findings in this group of people over 65:

  1. More alcohol use was associated with an increase in the size of the heart cavity while the heart relaxes (diastole) and contracts (systole), in both sexes. Like all muscles, our heart works best when the muscle fibers are not overly stretched. Increasing heart cavity size puts tension on the muscle fibers and they become less efficient.
  2. Increasing alcohol intake in men was linked to an increased heart mass (thickened heart). Thickened skeletal or outward muscles are okay, but you don’t want a thickened heart muscle. This is because the heart has to actively relax. A thick heart muscle takes more time to relax, and if the heart rate gets too fast, symptoms of shortness of breath and heart failure can develop.
  3. Increasing alcohol use in women was associated with lower heart function. The ejection fraction of the heart is the amount of blood the heart pumps out, divided by the amount it receives. Ejection fractions in women who had more alcohol, compared to those who did not drink alcohol at all or used less, were significantly lower.
  4. In both sexes, increasing alcohol consumption was linked to a larger upper heart chamber (left atrium). A larger left atrium is an important cause of atrial fibrillation.
  5. Only in the group who had 14 drinks or more per week was an increase in blood pressure noted.

Across both sexes, these adverse heart findings increased as weekly alcohol use increased. As previous studies also found, women were more susceptible than men across all the drinking levels.  Unfortunately, in this elderly group, no level of alcohol use was linked to a lowered risk of coronary artery disease.

Reasons to Lower Alcohol Use

This study shows that any level of alcohol consumption in the elderly can increase risk of upper and lower heart chamber enlargement. These structural changes to the heart can raise the risk of atrial fibrillation and heart failure. Women are particularly susceptible to these changes, but the authors also saw adverse changes in men who consumed more than one drink per day.

These study results make it very hard to provide a healthy level of alcohol use in people over 65 years of age, in particular, for women. At a minimum, if you want to lower your risk of atrial fibrillation, heart failure, and high blood pressure, try to limit your alcohol use to less than seven drinks a week. This is particularly important for women as they age.

 

Reprinted with permission from an article by T. Jared Bunch, MD,  Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, Logan, Utah

 

Need More Information about Your Health?

You are encouraged to use the web links in the section 'Links to health-related websites' below on this page to access information and resources from the Center for Disease Control, Web MD, and Texas Department of Health, to obtain more information about your health. 

Do not attempt to treat yourself. If you are worried about your condition, call send an email or call our office to set up an appointment so you can be examined for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

- Oladele Olusanya MD

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Charter Medical Center
8067 West Virginia Dr
Dallas, TX 75237
Phone: 972-474-3591
Fax: 972-230-5591
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