It Only Takes Two Drinks to Make You Stumble

by Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN on May 4, 2011 · 0 comments

As we get older we are more susceptible to the effect of alcohol. In a recent study in the journal BMC Research Notes, researchers found that for subjects who were 62 years old, it took only two drinks containing alcohol to interfere with the ability to walk and step over an obstacle. At this level of alcohol consumption, a person would still be within the legal limits to drive. None the less, the results show a significant negative effect on the subject’s dexterity.

What is most interesting about this study is that the subjects were young-old, healthy and had no mobility issues. Walking has no legal alcohol limit, yet there are numerous anecdotal accounts of people stumbling and falling after drinking. The results of this study show that even at low concentrations, alcohol affects the brain and increases the risk of falling.

As you get older, falls can be more serious because the likelihood of a broken bone increases. The subjects in the study had impaired reaction times and a lowered ability to step over an obstacle in their path. The researchers concluded that drinking challenges your normal gait pattern and makes it difficult to adjust your gait when an obstacle appears in your path. The obstacle could be as simple as stepping off a curb or around an uneven sidewalk. For most people in their early 60s neither of these minor obstacles would be an issue without alcohol in their system. And, appreciate, the level consumed in this study was so small there were no noticeable signs of intoxication.

Interesting food for thought – think before you drink and walk.

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