Study gauges unhealthy drinking among seniors

Concern increases as population ages

Alcohol

May 01, 2008

With the nation's population graying, health professionals have grown increasingly concerned about the number of people 65 and older who drink unhealthy amounts of alcohol.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reported that 9 percent of elderly Medicare beneficiaries -- 16 percent of the men and 4 percent of the women -- engaged in unhealthy drinking. Researchers said those numbers could be conservative because they are based on self-reporting.

Unhealthy drinking was defined in the study as consuming more than 30 drinks a month or drinking more than three drinks on any single day in a typical month. Elderly people with higher incomes and educational levels, and those who were smokers, white, unmarried or perceived themselves as healthy, were more likely to be unhealthy drinkers, according to the study.

Funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the study evaluated data on 12,413 Medicare beneficiaries age 65 and older.

According to the guidelines of the agency and the American Geriatrics Society, risky drinking for someone 65 or older involves consuming more than seven drinks weekly or more than three drinks on a single day. Other guidelines have suggested that single-occasion drinking should be limited to no more than two drinks.

Guidelines advise women to drink lower amounts than men.

Chicago Tribune

Respiration

Sleep apnea linked to surgical complications

Sleep apnea can put surgical patients at high risk for respiratory complications during and after surgery. But of the 2 percent to 26 percent of Americans who have the condition, some 80 percent of men and 93 percent of women don't know it.

Now anesthesiology researchers have developed a scoring system, published in this month's Anesthesiology journal, to quickly identify people with obstructive sleep apnea before surgery.

The disorder (tissue in the back of the throat collapses and closes in sleep) puts people at risk of heart attack, irregular heart rhythm, diabetes and even traffic accidents.

The researchers found that four simple questions can identify people likely with the disorder: Do you snore loudly? Do you often feel tired, fatigued or sleepy during daytime? Has anyone observed you stop breathing during sleep? Do you have or are you being treated for high blood pressure?

A "yes" to two questions ranks the patient as high risk for sleep apnea, says anesthesiologist Frances Chung, lead author of the study: "This patient may need to be monitored for oxygen saturation after surgery and may need more nursing care" -- or, for minor surgery, newer and shorter-acting anesthetic.

Los Angeles Times

Pesticides

EPA halts the sale of two weed killers

The Environmental Protection Agency has ordered the Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. to stop selling two lawn-care products because of what it calls "illegal, unregistered and misbranded" pesticides.

The order covers Garden Weed Preventer and Plant Food and Miracle-Gro Shake 'n Feed All Purpose Plant Food Plus Weed Preventer.

An EPA consumer hot line about the action has been established at 888-838-1304; or go to epa.gov/reg5 rcra/ptb/news.

Chicago Tribune

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