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After a few drinks, older adults more impaired than they think
Date:3/5/2009

groups that had not had alcohol. The researchers found that even though blood alcohol levels for participants in both groups rose at a similar rate right after drinking and reached the same peak, the older adults did worse on tests. That suggested the performance gap seen after moderate amounts of alcohol was not because of age-related differences in how the body processes the substance, but because of other factors influencing how alcohol affected the individuals.

In the test portion during the "stimulating" alcohol phase, older adults who had alcohol were slower than those who had not had any. In contrast, alcohol seemed to give the younger group a performance boost during that phase.

"People shouldn't take it to mean that younger people can drink with impunity," Sullivan said.

During that same post-drinking phase, when the older adults were impaired, they didn't think they were. And in the second phase an hour and 15 minutes after having alcohol older adults thought their performance was impaired, even when it wasn't.

"An older person might say 'Really, I feel all right, I'm sure I can drive,'" Sullivan said. "But the study shows that you can't always take someone at their word."

So what advice would Nixon give to active, older adults?

"If you have a couple of drinks at dinner, sit around, have dessert don't drive for a while."

The researchers didn't evaluate the role of interactions between alcohol and prescription and other medicines.

They hope to conduct studies with larger numbers of people, more age groups and a wider range of alcohol intake levels. Future studies in which subjects take multiple, more difficult tests; the same individual is observed under different circumstances; and differences between the sexes are evaluated might shed more light on alcohol effects in older active adults.


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Contact: Czerne M. Reid
czerne@ufl.edu
352-273-5814
University of Florida
Source:Eurekalert

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