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Just 2 Drinks Can Spell Lights Out for Seniors

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Just 2 Drinks Can Spell Lights Out for Seniors

Downing just 2 Martinis can make it difficult for a senior to walk home without tripping and falling, a new study suggests.

“People age 60 and older should be extra careful to avoid falls after they’ve had something to drink, even if their blood alcohol levels aren’t that high, said study researcher Judith Hegeman of Saint Maarten’s Clinic, a hospital in the Netherlands hospital that specializes studying in movement.”

“Almost everybody who has ever consumed alcohol has experienced what effect it can have on your walking pattern,” Hegeman told MyHealthNewsDaily. Because older people might have a harder time walking in general, “we assumed that the effects of alcohol would be even stronger in old persons.”

Almost 2 millions people age 65 and older had a nonfatal fall in 2007, the highest number of falls of any age groups. Falls are the number one cause of non fatal injuries in the U.S. according the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Smile Senior Care has covered the subject of falls extensively.

Falls can break bones and can easily spur social isolation if there’s no way for a person to get out and live his or her life, Hegeman said.

Researchers asked 13 healthy men and women whose average age was 62 to walk on a treadmill and avoid 30 thin beams in their paths. This exercise was designed to test the effects of alcohol on walking ability in older individuals. The participants tripped over the beams about 5% of the time while sober.

One drink was given to the participants, who were asked to perform the same exercise. “12 of the 13 adults had a delayed reaction stepping over the beams, everybody was struggling more after the alcoholic drinks”, Hegeman said.

After drink #2, all 13 had delayed responses and the participants tripped twice as often as they did before drinking the alcohol. They tripped 20% of the time when less time was given to avoid the obstacles. The average alchohol levels ranged between .03 and .06. .08 is the legal limit for driving in the U.S.

“It is not possible to draw a straight line between our experiment and driving tests, however, the results make you wonder whether the legal limits for blood alcohol levels and driving are OK,” Hegeman said 1

Next time you if you decide to go paint the town red, make sure you bring a long a family member, friend or your home care aide to get you safely back home.

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  1. The study was published Sept. 21 in the journal BMC Research Notes.