Excessive drinking presents fall risk for older men

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Study results may lead to an eventual finding that older men with a history of excessive drinking may have worse neuromuscular function than their peers with no past or present drinking problems. New research highlights an increased risk of falls among men 65 and older who have a history of problem drinking.

Study subjects who were heavy drinkers (14 or more alcoholic drinks per week) were 62% more likely to have fallen than those with no history of problem drinking, according to Dr. Peggy M. Cawthon of the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco and colleagues. More than 11% of the 5,974 men in the study fit the "heavy drinker" category. Researchers also found that men who currently abstained from consuming alcohol but were past problem drinkers had the greatest risk of falls.

As far as fractures due to falls, alcohol consumption has no effect on the likelihood of suffering a fracture, investigators found. They noted that the more the men in the study drank, the greater their bone mineral density. In addition, men who reported recent drinking had stronger bones than those who abstained altogether.

The study was reported in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.