When my Charlie was a young man, like most young men, he was a beer drinker.
Then he entered pilot training.
He was in the officers club one evening during his flight training, drinking a beer, when a superior officer came up to him and said, "Son, if you're going to be a pilot, you need to learn to drink martinis."
And so it began, Charlie's years of drinking martinis.
Someone once gave him a towel for Christmas that read: One martini, two martinis, three martinis, floor! This was so true, especially as he got older.
Martinis are almost pure gin with a bit of flavoring thrown in, much higher alcohol content than beer or wine, for example. While the martinis had little noticeable effect on the young Charlie, on the elderly Charlie they took their toll.
The solution was to switch to wine; an adjustment he made easily. But he has now found that three glasses of wine are two glasses too many.
You see, the body of an elderly person metabolizes alcohol differently than that of a younger person. There is a decrease in the total body water in older people. They also tend to have more body fat. These two physiological problems result in a much higher blood alcohol concentration in the elderly than in younger people from the same number of drinks.
There is evidence that a single drink per day may give some health benefit to the elderly. One drink has been shown to protect against coronary heat disease, myocardial infarctions and Type 2 diabetes among other things.
But the secret here is the word: single.
Charlie has always been a person who thinks more is better in everything he does. Two hammers are better than one, although you can only use one at a time, two vitamin pills per day are better than one, although your body will eliminate the unneeded vitamins, two canes are better than one, although one sits in the corner unused – see what I mean?
Ergo – he thinks two drinks (or three or four) are better than one, although tests have shown the exact opposite.
The size of the glass is also a problem when deciding how much alcohol is a good thing. A moderate drink is defined as one 12 ounce beer, a five ounce glass of wine, or one-and-a-half ounces of spirits.
Remember the problem we had with Charlie's water consumption? He thought he was supposed to be drinking eight 16 ounce glasses of water per day, rather than eight 8 ounce glasses. There is a big difference.
Over- consumption of alcohol can be a primary factor in the development of dementia.
This type of dementia is known as Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome. It causes damage to multiple nerves in both the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system, possibly related to the lack of Vitamin B1 (Thiamine).
People with this syndrome tend to have trouble with problem solving, learning, memory impairment and fabrication (making up stories to cover memory loss). They tend to have poor judgment, and undergo personality changes.
Sleep disturbances in the elderly are also to be expected in one who consumes too much alcohol. They suffer from insomnia and breathing disturbances that disrupt sleep. A person who has sleep problems should avoid alcohol consumption at bedtime.
If you are a person who enjoys an occasional alcoholic beverage, you may be doing your health some good. But remember, the secret is one drink!