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Leaflet: A guide to help you make healthier choices about alcohol as you get older

As we get older our bodies change. You may notice a few extra wrinkles, or grey hair!

Your body also takes longer to process alcohol than it used to. This is because fat replaces muscle as we age and alcohol is not drawn into body fat as it is into muscle.

Drinking alcohol regularly can:

  • Lead to poor sleep
  • Make you anxious or depressed
  • Cause you memory problems
  • Put you over the drink driving limit

As we age, alcohol affects us differently. It can:

  • Increase risk of falls or injury
  • Increase blood pressure
  • Interact badly with medication
  • Worsen health conditions

Some older adults may be at increased risk of alcohol harm even if drinking within the recommended limits. You will be especially vulnerable if you have a health condition, or are taking medication.

Making healthier choices about your alcohol use can:

  • Improve your memory
  • Help you sleep
  • Save money
  • Improve your health
  • Ensure medication safety
  • Mean you are less likely to fall

Units of alcohol

1 unit
Equivalent to a single small shot of spirits (25ml ABV 40%)

1.5 units
Equivalent to a small glass of white/red wine (125ml ABV 12%)

2 units
Equivalent to a can of lager/beer (440ml ABV 4.5%)

2.2 units
Equivalent to a pint of lager/beer  (568ml/1 pint ABV 3.8%)

Take our quiz

Sirona wants to help you make healthier choices about alcohol. See how you score.

  1. How often do you drink?
    • Never (0)
    • Monthly or less (1)
    • 2-3 times a month (2)
    • 2-3 times a week (3)
    • 4+ times a week (4)
  2. How many units do you usually drink per day?
    • 1-2 (0)
    • 3-4 (1)
    • 5-6 (2)
    • 7-9 (3)
    • 10+ (4)
  3. How often do you drink more than 6 units (women) or 8 units (men) in a day?
    • Never (0)
    • Less than monthly (1)
    • Monthly (2)
    • Weekly (3)
    • Daily or almost daily (4)

How did you score?

Well done! You are a lower risk drinker and less likely to experience problems caused by alcohol.

Be careful – you may be drinking at a level that will cause problems for you now or in the future.

14 units per week

To keep the health risks from alcohol to a low level, the Chief Medical Officer recommends that you should limit your alcohol intake to no more than 14 units per week, and to spread these evenly over three days or more.

If you wish to cut down the amount you are drinking, try to have several drink-free days per week.

Start to make healthier choices about alcohol

Lower your risk
Stay within the recommended 14 units per week and spread these out.

Give your body a break
Have at least 2-3 alcohol-free days each week.

Keep hydrated
Have water or alcohol-free drink with each alcoholic drink.

Keep track
Use a unit measure or smaller glass – as it’s too easy to pour yourself larger drinks.

Eat something
Have a meal when you are drinking or eat before.

New hobbies
As we get older, we have more time for hobbies, groups and activities.

Get support

If you would like to speak to someone about your own or a loved one’s drinking, please talk to your GP or ask to see the Active Ageing Health Visitor.

Support organisations

DHI South Gloucestershire – 0800 073 3011
Drinkline – 0300 123 1110
Smart Recovery – 0117 922 2364

Please visit for more information
and resources.

We are grateful to the National Lottery Community funded
programme, Drink Wise, Age Well for much of the information
in this leaflet.

This leaflet can be provided in other formats and languages, please contact us for more information.

Date of creation: February 2019 / Date of review: February 2021 / URN: 498