Daily drinkers, please take note. Researchers now reveal that heavy drinking in old age was linked to a 1.5 inch (4 cm) larger waist and increased stroke risk in men.
However, stopping heavy drinking at any point in life is likely to be beneficial for overall health.
The study, published in the journal Addiction, examined the association between heavy drinking over a lifetime and a range of health indicators including cardiovascular disease.
“Alcohol misuse, despite the common perception of young people, binge drinking, is common among older adults, with alcohol-related hospital admissions in England being the highest among adults aged over 50,” said study first author Dr Linda Ng Fat from University College London in the UK.
For the findings, the researchers used data from the “Whitehall II” cohort, which collected information from UK civil servants, aged 34-56 years at study outset, since 1985-88.
The final sample for this study was made up of 4,820 older adults, aged between 59 and 83 years. The mean (average) age was 69, and 75 per cent were male.
A heavy drinker was identified using the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test for Consumption (AUDIT-C).
The screening tool consists of just three questions and assesses how often you drink, how much you drink, and how often you binge (have six or more drinks).
Participants were asked on a single occasion to complete the AUDIT-C retrospectively for each decade of their life, from 16-19 to 80 and over.
This information was used to categorise their life-time drinking pattern: never hazardous drinker, former early hazardous drinker (stopped before age 50), former later hazardous drinker (stopped at age 50 or after), current hazardous drinker, and consistent hazardous drinker (during every decade of their life).
More than half of drinkers (56 per cent) had been hazardous drinkers at some point in their life, with 21 per cent being current hazardous drinkers and 5 per cent being consistent hazardous drinkers.
The findings showed that former early hazardous drinkers on average had a 1.17 cm larger waist than never hazardous drinkers, whereas former later hazardous drinkers, current hazardous drinkers and consistent hazardous drinkers had a waist circumference that was 1.88 cm, 2.44 cm and 3.85 cm larger respectively.
Overall, the research found that heavy alcohol consumption over a lifetime is associated with higher blood pressure, poorer liver function, increased stroke risk, larger waist circumferences and body mass index (BMI) in later life, even if you stop drinking heavily before age 50.