Alcohol has long been considered a social lubricant, but recent studies suggest that drinking too much might age us faster. Is it true?
Drinking alcohol is often associated with fun times, especially at parties or celebrations.
However, excessive consumption of alcohol can cause serious health problems such as liver disease, heart attack, stroke, cancer, and even death.
There are several ways in which alcohol affects our bodies.
Some of these include dehydration, increased blood pressure, and decreased immune system function.
But does alcohol also age us? And does it affect our lifespan? We take a closer look.
Can Alcohol Age You?
Alcohol is maybe the most widely consumed drug in the world, yet there’s still so much we don’t know about how it works on our bodies.
Although many people believe that alcohol ages you, this isn’t necessarily true.
However, if you do drink excessively, then yes, alcohol will have an impact on your body.
It could be just what you need to get through a tough day, but over time, it could lead to some serious issues.
According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), excessive alcohol use can increase your risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and certain cancers.
Heavy drinkers are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than moderate drinkers.
In addition, excessive alcohol intake may decrease your ability to fight off infections by weakening your immune system.
This means that you’re less able to protect yourself from illnesses and diseases.
The NIA says that although alcohol doesn’t directly cause aging, it does contribute to other factors that accelerate aging.
For example, chronic inflammation caused by alcohol can damage cells and tissues, leading to premature cell loss and organ dysfunction.
This leads to accelerated cellular aging, which increases your risk for developing conditions like dementia and Parkinson’s disease, as well as the ones we have listed above.
Furthermore, the NIA also notes that alcohol can interfere with normal metabolism, making it harder to control weight gain and maintain healthy cholesterol levels as we age.
So, while alcohol won’t necessarily make you older, it can certainly speed up the process.
If you want to live longer, try cutting back on your drinking habits!
The Effects Alcohol Has On The Body As You Age
Alcohol is linked to age in lots of ways, and as we have mentioned, heavy drinking can affect our bodies and our mental health when we get older.
It can also have indirect effects too, and we are going to explore some of these.
It Can Dehydrate You
Excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to dehydration because it causes your kidneys to work overtime.
Your body uses water to metabolize alcohol, and when your body has too little water, it becomes difficult to break down alcohol efficiently.
As a result, you end up urinating more often and having trouble concentrating.
Not only that, but alcohol can also cause your stomach lining to become inflamed, which makes it hard for your digestive tract to absorb nutrients properly.
All of these things can leave you feeling tired and drained as you age and can also weaken your muscles, especially if you have been drinking regularly for a long period.
It Could Make You More Vulnerable To Illness And Disease
Heavy drinking can also affect your immune system.
According to the Mayo Clinic, alcohol can suppress your natural immunity, meaning that you are less able to fight off illness and infection.
Your immune system needs to function normally to keep you healthy and strong.
When your immune system is compromised, you are at greater risk of getting sick or even dying prematurely.
Your Immune System Needs Water
Another way that alcohol affects your body as you get older is through its impact on your brain.
The NIA explains that alcohol reduces the amount of water in your brain, which can lead to problems such as cognitive impairment and memory loss.
The National Institute on Aging reports that people who drink heavily over their lifetime are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who don’t drink at all.
It May Be Linked To Depression And Anxiety
According to the NIA, excessive alcohol use may be linked to depression and anxiety.
This could be because alcohol can increase stress hormones in your body, causing you to feel anxious and depressed.
If you already suffer from mood disorders, then this could worsen them.
In addition, alcohol can impair judgment and decision-making skills, which can lead to risky behaviors as we age.
It Might Affect How Well You Sleep
Drinking alcohol before bedtime can disrupt your sleep patterns.
This means that you will wake up during the night and find yourself unable to return to sleep.
If you continue to drink after you go to bed, you might not get enough restorative sleep and instead spend most of your nights tossing and turning.
This can make it harder for you to focus and concentrate and can also negatively affect your overall energy levels as you get older and start to lose energy naturally.
It Can Dry Your Skin
Our skin gets thinner and dries out as we get older and this is called intrinsic aging.
It is something we cannot control, but extrinsic aging, on the other hand, is when your skin ages faster than normal as a result of your environment and how you live.
This is where alcohol plays its part. It dehydrates you and can dry out your skin. By cutting down on drinking, you can slow down this process.
It Can Change How Medications Work
Alcohol affects many medications including those used to treat high blood pressure, diabetes, heart conditions, seizures, and mental health issues.
For example, according to WebMD, taking certain antidepressants while using alcohol can reduce the effectiveness of these drugs.
Moreover, drinking alcohol when taking aspirin can increase your chances of internal bleeding or other stomach problems.
If you drink alcohol and it is still in your system when you take certain sleeping pills or anxiety drugs can even be life-threatening.
It Can Lead To Liver Damage
The liver is responsible for breaking down harmful chemicals and toxins in our bodies.
However, if you have been consuming too much alcohol, your liver may become damaged. As a result, it won’t be able to perform its function properly.
This may cause symptoms like yellowing of your eyes, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, fatigue, jaundice, and light-colored stools.
You should seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of these symptoms as not only can it contribute to health problems as you age, but it can also be life-threatening at the time.
It Might Make You Fall
Broken bones after stumbling as an elderly person are a serious health concern.
Heavy drinking can increase the chances of you falling over as alcohol can affect balance and sense of judgment.
As the years go on, it can damage the cerebellum, which is the part of your brain that deals with balance and coordination.
How Can I Cut Back On Alcohol Intake?
As with most things, all you need is moderation when it comes to drinking alcohol as you age.
People over 65 who do not rely on medications should not drink more than one drink a day and no more than three at one time.
If you are struggling with alcohol, talk with your doctor or medical professional to seek help.
If you want to cut back on your alcohol intake, here are some tips:
- Drink less than one alcoholic beverage per day and try to limit the amount of alcohol you consume in the week.
- Choose low-alcohol beers such as lager beer when you still want the feel of having an alcoholic beverage.
- Try to keep alcohol for special occasions or even on weekends and holidays.
- Get enough sleep every night so that you don’t feel tired and sluggish during the day, which could lead you to turn to a drink later in the day.
- Take breaks from socializing or going out to bars and clubs when you can, to avoid becoming dependent on alcohol.
We hope this article helped you understand how alcohol affects your body as you age and what you can do about it.
None of us can avoid aging, but we can choose to make healthy lifestyle choices that will allow us to live longer and healthier lives, and part of this lifestyle could be cutting down on those alcohol units!