Menopause & Alcohol: The risks that every woman in her 40s and 50s should know

Are you are a woman in your 40s or 50s noticing that you are drinking more alcohol than you ever have? Are you in the beginning throes of menopause, actively in menopause or post-menopausal, not feeling as happy as normal, and finding yourself turning to alcohol or another drug to feel better? Have you started to feel concerned about your increased use and possibly abuse of alcohol? Or, maybe you notice a friend or family member drinking more and worry about how the higher consumption is affecting her physical health and overall wellbeing. Are you wondering if this increased alcohol use has become a problem and concerned about how it might be impacting your health?

Understanding Menopause And Alcohol

If you’re a woman approaching or in middle age and find yourself drinking more alcohol than usual, you are not alone.

As a woman, highly experienced and trained drug and alcohol counselor and a recovering alcoholic with decades of sobriety, I know a lot about alcohol and its impacts on women. Mainly, women process alcohol differently than men and are at higher risk of developing a problem with alcohol. Lately, however, I began noticing that more and more women around the age of menopause began seeking my help, stating that they’d starting drinking more and more. Curious to figure out this trend, I did a little research.

The science backs up what I’ve witnessed over the years. According to a National Institutes of Health (NHI) study published on PubMed, Menopause, ageing, and alcohol disorders in women, alcohol intake affects the female body differently than the male’s. Females have lower levels of dehydrogenase enzymes, which is the enzyme that breaks down alcohol. Women also generally carry more body fat than men. These two differences make women more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol and more prone to developing alcohol-related diseases.

Furthermore, during peri-menopause, menopause and post-menopause, estrogen levels change. With a drop in estrogen, most women also experience a drop in other hormones, especially the “feel good” ones. As estrogen subsides in the body, many women seek out ways to feel better. This drop in estrogen production also happens during a period of life when many women experience changes to their body composition and increased stress. There can be the financial stresses of kids in college while retirement is around the corner; grief from the loss of a loved one, which happens more and more as we get older; and the complex issues and stressors that can come with caring for an ageing parent.

The Risks With Menopause And Alcohol

In further research, I learned that women who drink later in life are at increased risk to for liver problems, heart complications and even osteoporosis. But, what really surprised and concerned me was the increased risk of breast cancer in female drinkers just before, during and after menopause. According to information provided on the National Institute’s of Health National Cancer Institute, a woman consuming one alcoholic drink a day increases her risk of breast cancer by 7 percent; with 2-3 drinks a day that risk increases to 20 percent; and, women who drink more than 3 drinks a day increase their risk of developing breast cancer by more than 51 percent.

Kagey Family Counseling Can Help

If you’re concerned about how much you’ve been drinking or are worried about a friend or family member’s use of drugs and or alcohol, it’s important to seek help. Alcohol and drug abuse are serious issues, and consumption of alcohol during menopause can create increased health risks. I invite you to call our Houston, TX office at 832-928-0211 to set up an initial appointment or a phone consultation. We offer alcohol counseling, drug counseling and various other forms of support and resources at our Houston location and confidential online counseling for people all over the United States.