Moderate drinking may help older women live longer

Significant benefits found in cardiovascular health and overall quality of life

Newcastle, Australia - December 13, 2006 -- A study published in Journal of the American Geriatrics Society finds that moderate alcohol intake (1-2 drinks/day for 3-6 days/week, depending on alcoholic content) may lead to increased quality of life and survival in older women. The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health followed nearly 12,000 women in their 70’s over a 6 year period. The group was comprised of non-drinkers, occasional drinkers and moderate drinkers.

The study found that non-drinkers and women who rarely drank had a significantly higher risk of dying during the survey period than did women who drank moderately. Of those who survived, the women who drank the least reported the lowest health-related quality of life. Previous studies have shown that women who have at least one drink per day stand at a lower risk for cardiovascular disease and ischemic stroke than non-drinkers.

“The results of this study indicate that moderate alcohol intake in keeping with current guidelines may carry some health benefits for older women,” says Dr. Julie Ellen Byles, author of the study. This contrasts previous studies which have suggested that moderate alcohol intake can be detrimental to older women and may lead to accidents, cancers, even dementia.

The potential causes of increased health and survival may be ingredients found in wine or ethanol, the social and pleasurable benefits of drinking or the improved appetite and nutrition that often accompanies modest alcohol intake. The author notes that the study does not advocate non-drinkers to begin drinking. Changes in diet need to be determined through consultation with a doctor due to the potential complications of mixing alcohol and medication.

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This study is published in Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Media wishing to receive a PDF of this article please contact Medicalnews@bos.blackwellpublishing.net

Julie Ellen Byles B Med, PhD, is Director of the Research Centre for Gender, Health and Ageing at theUniversity of Newcastle, and co-Director of the Newcastle Institute of Public Health. She can be reached for questions at Julie.Byles@newcastle.edu.au.

The primary goal of Journal of the American Geriatrics Society is to publish articles that are relevant in the broadest terms to the clinical care of older persons. Such articles may span a variety of disciplines and fields and may be of immediate, intermediate, or long-term potential benefit to clinical practice. For more information, please visit www.blackwell-synergy.com/loi/jgs.

About the AGS
The American Geriatrics Society (AGS) is a nationwide, not-for-profit association of geriatrics health care professionals, research scientists, and other concerned individuals dedicated to improving the health, independence and quality of life of all older people.

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