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Alcohol and Aging

Alcohol and Aging. Effects of Alcohol on Skin. Other Aging Effects of Alcohol

Alcohol and Aging Process

The effect of alcohol on a person’s appearance can impact their self-esteem. Alcohol and self-esteem have a mutually destructive relationship. Alcohol can negatively affect one’s self-esteem, and low self-esteem fuels alcohol abuse. For example, if somebody commented about your looks, you might have started feeling negative about your physical appearance. 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, how you view your body profoundly impacts your self-worth.

Alcohol accelerates skin aging. Alcohol dehydrates the entire body, and that includes your skin. Tissue inflammation and dehydration both take a toll. Heavy drinking can add years to your face with wrinkles, dryness, puffiness, red cheeks, and purple capillaries. When the skin and whites of the eyes turn yellow, Jaundice is one sign of alcoholic hepatitis.

There are many ways alcohol can put extra damage to your body. Alcohol causes your body to release more stress hormones, speeding up aging. 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 magnesium, calcium, iron, and zinc; and even basics like carbohydrates and proteins.

Alcohol’s all-around adverse 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.

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Alcohol and Aging
Alcohol is a depressant, slows down vital functions, resulting in slurred speech and unsteady movement. Alcohol and aging may cause a great decline in health with these effects.

Alcohol Tolerance and Age

It takes longer for the body to break down alcohol as we age. Alcohol stays in the system longer. Tolerance to alcohol also decreases. Chronic drinking can damage 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 loneliness, boredom, and grief, which are common with aging.

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

Alcohol And Aging Can Slow Your Brain

Chronic drinking over a long time can reduce the brain cells and lead to certain types of dementia and alcohol-related brain damage (ARBD). Symptoms include poor 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 limbic system, cerebellum, 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 and memory and emotional response issues.

A number of factors influence how and to what extent alcohol affects the brain, including:

  • How much and how often a person drinks
  • The person’s age, level of education, gender, genetic background, and family history of alcoholism
  • The age at which he or she first began drinking and how long he or she has been drinking
  • Whether he or she is at risk as a result of prenatal alcohol exposure; and
  • His or her general health status

Alcohol and aging can produce detectable impairments in memory after only a few drinks and as the number of alcohol increases, so does the degree of impairment. Large quantities of alcohol, especially when consumed quickly and on an empty stomach, can produce an alcohol blackout, or an interval of time for which the intoxicated person cannot recall key details of events or even entire events.

alcohol and aging
Alcoholism may accelerate normal aging or cause premature aging of the brain
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Alcohol And Aging Can Make Vital Organs Weaker

Chronic alcohol use can also cause problems with reaction time and balance, increasing accidents’ chances. Moreover, alcohol can worsen health problems such as osteoporosis, diabetes, stroke, and liver disease. Chronic drinking can also increase the odds of depression, dementia, suicide, and impaired sexual functioning, However, the differences between safe, moderate, and heavy drinking are different for everyone.

Your body might also experience other age-related changes that increase the risks associated with drinking. Your eyesight and hearing may deteriorate; your reflexes might slow. These changes can make you feel dizzy, high, or intoxicated even after drinking only a small amount. As a result, older people are more likely to have alcohol-related falls, automobile collisions, or other accidents. Drinking can also worsen many medical conditions common among older people, such as high blood pressure and ulcers.

Alcohol And Aging Can Affect Your Heart

Red wine has polyphenols and antioxidants 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 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[3].

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 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.

alcohol and aging
Alcohol and aging can include periods of alcohol intoxication and symptoms of withdrawal.

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Alcohol And Aging 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 increase your dehydration chances.

Alcohol And Aging Hits You Faster

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

Alcohol and Skin Aging – Effects of Alcohol on Skin

Alcohol dehydrates 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 and causing dehydration. Dehydrated skin can look dry and unhealthy, both in the skin’s color and 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.

How Does Alcohol Use Result In Premature Aging?

The impact of alcohol on aging is multifaceted. Evidence shows that alcoholism or chronic alcohol consumption can cause accelerated (or premature) aging – in which symptoms of aging appear earlier than normal – and exaggerated aging, in which the symptoms appear at the appropriate time but in a more exaggerated form.

The effects of alcohol abuse on the aging process include cardiac dysrhythmia, hypertension, cancers, gastrointestinal disorders, neurocognitive deficits, bone loss, and emotional disturbances, especially depression. On the other hand, research also shows that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol may protect healthy adults from developing coronary heart disease. The American Heart Association cautions people not to start drinking if they are not already drinking.

Alcohol and Aging
Alcohol is linked to age in lots of ways. You have to be old enough to drink it legally; once you are, it can age you faster than normal. 

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Other Aging Effects of Alcohol

Alcohol Can Change How Your Meds Work

Mixing alcohol with prescription drugs can 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.

Alcohol And Aging 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.

Alcohol And Aging Can Keep You Up at Night

The idea of having a drink to relax before bedtime may not be good, especially as you get older. Instead of lulling you into a restful night, alcohol can 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 And Aging 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.

Alcohol Can Make You Feel Older Too

Whether it’s over one night or several years, chronic alcohol consumption 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, known as dementia. Medical practitioners have identified several ways alcohol affects the brain and memory. For instance, people who binge drink or have alcohol use disorder (AUD) may experience short- and long-term memory loss.

Some individuals 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 puts their keys, to large, forgetting what happened at night.

Alcohol and Aging Treatment

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Alcohol and Aging
It’s time to end the risks of alcohol and aging and live a strong and healthy life. 

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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