Drinking & Aging Don’t Mix Well … So Here’s What You Should Know

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Remember back when you were in your mid-20s, and you could go all night throwing back a few drinks, get home a little later than you should, and still get up for work the following day? At that age, the resilience allotted by our youth was no match for 2 for 1 well drink specials and Margarita Madness. Then you turned 30 and realized things began to change. It became a little harder to quickly bounce back after an all-night bender or even sometimes after just moderate alcohol consumption. Well, reportedly, there is a direct correlation between aging and alcohol conception with correlating, potentially negative impact on the body over time.

In a recent interview with Well and Good online, Gastroenterologist Dr. Niket Sonpal shares that our body processes alcohol differently in our 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and beyond. Whereas many physical changes are inevitable as we age, Dr. Sonpal explains, “Alcohol has numerous effects on the body ranging from the brain down to our liver and guts… Those effects increase as we get older.”

Many people in their 30s will notice it gets harder to recover from even just two glasses of wine. Heavier drinkers often experience dehydration, inflammation, aches, pains, and headaches. And then, all these symptoms can indicate other possible diseases are developing from too much alcohol ingestion.

The adverse effects of alcohol become far more visible when we hit our 40s. In general, this is the time in our lives we begin to show age in our faces. Chronic alcohol consumption can accelerate the process causing premature wrinkles and a more prominent appearance of aging. As our skin is the largest organ of the body, and board-certified dermatologist Stacy Chimento, MD, makes the point, “Alcohol dehydrates the body, and one of the first places you’ll notice it is in your skin.”

During our 50s and beyond, alcohol drinking disorder (alcoholism) presents more severe sleep deprivation concerns than those normally reported by this age demographic. There is a misconception that alcohol helps you sleep, but it is actually disruptive to the body’s ability to reach deep REM (rapid-eye-movement) sleep – a necessity for brain health, emotional response, and memory retention. The disruption of sleep compounded with copious alcohol ingestion makes hangovers feel more severe in our 50s.

If habitual drinking goes unchecked during our 50s and 60s, life-threatening conditions could develop. It’s not uncommon for natural ailments to occur around this age that might require medications. However, such medications combined with excessive alcohol create the possibility of damage to our livers.

According to Dr. Sonpal, “Alcohol competes with medicine processed by your liver and can cause lots of interactions with alcohol. As a result, those medicines are not broken down, and their effects last a lot longer.”  Unfortunately, this can lead to overdosing, so take note that medications for diabetes, anxiety, antibiotics, antidepressants, antihistamines, and blood thinners, are all known to react to alcohol.

Though Dr. Sonpal paints a bleak picture of the effects of chronic alcohol use as we age, many of the health concerns mentioned are preventable. We can still enjoy cocktails, wine, and spirits well into our elder years but in moderation. Managing our health as we grow older, controlling alcohol consumption, and drinking responsibly are critical steps in the right direction to eliminate the potential for future alcohol-related illnesses.

So, sip smart and bottoms up, darling!

Read more about the effects of alcohol as we age @Wellandgood

 

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