Alcohol and Aging

Alcohol and Aging, Does Drinking Make You Look and Feel Older?

Alcohol and the Aging Process

The appearance effect of alcohol can impact a person’s self-esteem. Alcohol and self-esteem have a mutually destructive relationship. Alcohol can negatively impact one’s self-esteem and low self-esteem fuels alcohol abuse. For example, if people made comments about your appearance, you might have started to feel negative about your physical appearance. In turn, this may have affected your self-esteem early on, making it difficult to see positive qualities in other aspects of yourself and leading to a general lack of self-confidence. Likewise, the way that you view your body has a profound impact on your self-worth. 

Alcohol and Aging
The general rule of thumb is to take a close look and honestly assess if drinking is causing any life problems. If it’s causing difficulties with your health, relationships, daily functioning or emotions, then it’s too much.

Alcohol accelerates skin aging. Alcohol dehydrates the entire body, and that includes your skin. Dehydration and tissue inflammation both take a toll. Wrinkles, puffiness, dryness, red cheeks, and purple capillaries – heavy drinking can add years to your face. When the skin and whites of the eyes turn yellow, Jaundice is one sign of alcohol liver damage [1].

There are many ways alcohol can put extra tension on your body. Alcohol causes your body to release more stress hormones, which speeds up the aging process. It also affects the healthy functioning of your digestive system, making it harder for you to absorb essential nutrients. This includes vitamins A, B, D, and E; minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc; and even basics like proteins and carbohydrates. 

Alcohol’s all-around negative effect on nutrition means that heavy drinkers often become malnourished. This limits the body’s ability to maintain itself, resulting in faster aging. In addition, it is well known that chronic alcoholics are at high risk of being deficient in vitamin B1 (thiamine), which puts the person at an increased risk for Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome (wet brain), cerebellar degeneration, and cardiovascular dysfunction [2]. 

Does Drinking Make You Look Older?

The short answer: yes. While the occasional drink with friends might not hurt, evidence suggests a strong connection between alcohol and aging. Drinking too much can cause wrinkly skin, redness, and a dry complexion–and that’s only the beginning. If you want to keep looking and feeling young, it’s probably time to start drinking less alcohol. If you look at a woman who has been drinking for 20 or 30 years and a woman the same age who hasn’t at all, we see a massive difference in the skin—more wrinkles from that dehydration damage, which can make you look 10 years older.

Of course, rapid aging affects your physical appearance. A recent study by researchers in Denmark focusing on telltale signs of aging found that men who consumed more than 35 drinks a week were 35 percent more likely to display “arcus corneae,” a gray ring in the eye that often pops up in old age. Women who had 28 drinks or more per week had a 33 percent higher chance of developing the same syndrome. Adding extra stress to your body and depriving it of the nutrients it needs to rebuild, alcohol can place you years ahead in the aging process and affect how you look.

Alcohol Tolerance and Age

As we age, it takes longer for the body to break down alcohol. It stays in the system longer. Tolerance also decreases. Excessive drinking can compromise your immune system and can lead to some forms of cancer. As you age, your drinking habits may change. Social drinking when you’re young may turn to alcohol to relieve boredom, loneliness, and grief, which are common with aging. The risk of becoming an alcoholic is greater for women than men.

Also, according to the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), even after you stop drinking, alcohol continues to enter the bloodstream, resulting in impaired judgment and coordination for hours. It also can decrease the effectiveness of some medications and highly accelerate others, including over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen, sleeping pills, and others.

Alcohol abuse can also cause problems with balance and reaction times, increasing the chances of accidents and falls. Moreover, alcohol can worsen health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, osteoporosis, and liver disease. Excessive drinking can also increase the odds of dementia, depression, suicide, and impaired sexual functioning, However, the differences between safe, moderate, and heavy drinking are different for everyone.

It Can Make Vital Organs Weaker

Alcohol can affect the way some vital organs work and make them age faster. While heavy drinkers are more likely to have cirrhosis (permanent damage to your liver)even moderate drinking can lead to problems like fatty liver disease. It also can make it harder for your kidneys to do their thing [3].

It Can Slow Your Brain

Every alcoholic drink goes “straight to your head,” or at least to your brain. Heavy drinking over a long time can shrink brain cells and lead to alcohol-related brain damage (ARBD) and certain types of dementia. Symptoms of that include lack of judgment, organization, or emotional control, trouble staying focused, and anger issues.

Alcohol’s effects on the brain can be felt quickly. Not only can drinking cause temporary complications such as memory loss and coordination, but it can also lead to long-term side effects that are sometimes irreversible.

Damage to different regions of the brain, especially the cerebellum, limbic system, and cerebral cortex, can significantly impact the body’s communication pathways. For example, the cerebellum handles your body’s motor skills. When alcohol affects this area of the brain, you’re more likely to experience a loss of balance, as well as memory and emotional response issues.

It Can Affect Your Heart

Red wine has antioxidants called polyphenols that may help your cholesterol level and protect your blood vessels. If you drink it in moderation (about one glass a day), some studies show that it might be good for your heart. But too much can lead to an abnormal heartbeat and high blood pressure. So if you don’t drink, this isn’t a good reason to start.

Alcohol and Aging
Knowing all the risks of alcohol and aging helps one understand that it’s all about moderation. Try to keep a healthy balance, have fun, and take good care of yourself.

The heart is highly vulnerable to the adverse effects of alcohol consumption. Over time, heavy drinking can weaken the heart, impacting how oxygen and nutrients are delivered to other vital organs in your body. In addition, excessive alcohol consumption can increase triglyceride levels – a type of fat in your blood. High triglycerides contribute to the risk of developing dangerous health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

Some of the early cardiovascular effects, like high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat, can lead to a host of problems down the road. Long-term consequences of excessive drinking may include cardiomyopathy, stroke, and sudden cardiac death.

It Hits You Faster

People who drink may notice that they’re “feeling no pain” sooner as they get older. That’s mainly because our bodies gain fat and lose muscle in our senior years and it takes longer for us to break down alcohol and get it out of our system. It also can make hangovers last longer.

It Can Dehydrate You

As you get older, you have less water in your body and — for reasons that aren’t quite clear –you also feel thirsty less often. That makes seniors more likely to be dehydrated. Drinking alcohol can pull more water out of your body and make your chances of dehydration even higher.

Effects of Alcohol on Skin

Alcohol consumption results in two things. Inflammation and dehydration. We will discuss how dehydration and inflammation affect the skin and why you might want to quit drinking.  

The effects of dehydration from alcohol:

  • Loss of elasticity, leading to wrinkles and sagging skin
  • Dryness
  • Dullness
  • Enlarged pores

Alcohol is known to dehydrate the skin, depriving it of the moisture and nutrients it needs to keep our complexion looking radiant, supple, and youthful. Alcohol removes the fluid in the skin, increasing the appearance of dryness, wrinkles, and sagging skin.

As alcohol is a diuretic, it actively draws water away from the body, significantly lowering its water level, causing dehydration. Dehydrated skin can look dry and unhealthy, both in the color of the skin as well as the texture.

Dehydration can also lead to congestion. Dehydration due to alcohol can also dilate the skin’s pores, increasing blackheads and whiteheads. If this is poorly treated, it can cause acne and rosacea. In the long term, this ages skin and can cause permanent scarring.

Alcohol and Aging
Alcohol consumed in excess can affect memory. If a person uses it heavily long-term, they’re at risk for a number of memory-related health conditions

It Can Dry Your Skin

Our skin gets thinner and drier as we age. It’s a natural process called intrinsic aging, and it’s something you can’t control. Extrinsic aging is when your skin ages faster than it should because of your environment and how you live. That’s where alcohol comes in – it dehydrates you and dries out your skin. You can slow that down by drinking less.

How Does Alcohol Use Result in Premature Aging?

Alcohol widens blood vessels, causing redness in the face. Usually, this redness and puffiness go away a few hours or a day after drinking. However, consistent overconsumption of alcohol can create permanent red, spidery veins on the face. Combined with the wrinkles the alcohol is also causing, this leads to premature aging.

Other Aging Effects of Alcohol

It Can Weaken Your Immune System

Alcohol can affect how your body fights off life-threatening illnesses like tuberculosis or pneumonia. This can be especially serious for older people. Researchers are also studying the possibility that alcoholic liver disease might be caused, at least in part, by your immune system attacking healthy body tissues.

It Can Change How Your Meds Work

Mixing alcohol with prescription drugs can either reduce or intensify a drug’s intended effects. Some medications already contain alcohol. The older you get, the longer alcohol stays in your system. So it’s more likely to be there when you take medicine. And alcohol can affect the way your meds work. It can also lead to serious side effects.

For example, drinking alcohol when you take aspirin can raise your chances of stomach problems or internal bleeding. In addition, it can be life-threatening when mixing it with certain sleeping pills, pain medications, or anxiety drugs.

It Can Make You More Likely to Fall

Broken bones from a stumble are a serious health issue for seniors. Heavy drinking can make them even more likely. It’s because alcohol can affect your balance and sense of judgment. Over time, it also can damage the cerebellum, the area in your brain that handles balance and coordination.

It Can Keep You Up at Night

The idea of having a drink to relax before bedtime may not be a good one, especially as you get older. Instead of lulling you into a restful night, alcohol can actually keep you from getting to sleep and lead to restless slumber. That can be particularly hard on seniors, who are already more likely to wake up often or have a sleep disorder like insomnia.

Alcohol Can Make You Feel Older

Whether it’s over one night or several years, heavy alcohol use can lead to lapses in memory. This may include difficulty recalling recent events or even an entire night. It can also lead to permanent memory loss, described as dementia.

Doctors have identified several ways alcohol affects the brain and memory. For example, people who binge drink or have alcohol use disorder (AUD) may experience short- and long-term memory loss.

Some people experience what doctors call an alcohol blackout when they drink too much alcohol and don’t remember key details. These situations can range from small, such as where a person put their keys, to large, forgetting what happened at night.

Start the healing process from alcohol and aging and all the other side effects of alcohol abuse. Alcohol abuse can quickly derail someone’s goals and dreams for the future. However, you don’t have to lose hope and continue down the path of destruction. Across the country, there are specialized alcohol treatment programs that help millions of individuals overcome alcoholism each year.

We Level Up NJ has amenities, therapies, and activities with customized recovery plans in place. During the treatment program, clients learn how to handle triggers, prevent urges to drink, and other tools to help maintain sobriety.

alcohol and aging
It’s time to put an end on the risks of alcohol and aging, and live a strong and healthy life. 

Sources:

[1] NIAAA – https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/facts-about-aging-and-alcohol

[2] NIAAA – https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa40.htm

[2] NIAAA – https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health