For the sake of health and safety, there are many reasons not to consume alcohol heavily. But one reason is something you might not be aware of: Alcohol can speed up the human aging process.
Other than sunlight, almost nothing prematurely ages people’s skin as much as alcohol intake. Even worse, these age-related effects are more than skin-deep.
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How Alcohol Affects the Body
Yes, the entire body can be affected — and aged — by excessive alcohol use. Here are a few examples.
To start, drinking alcohol can dehydrate. That’s because alcohol is a diuretic, a substance that increases urination by removing fluids from the body. And this problem is compounded in older people, who often have less water in their bodies to begin with.
Dehydration can cause a number of health problems: dizziness, headaches, low blood pressure, and kidney stones, just to name a few.
Over time, alcohol can damage the liver, an organ responsible for storing nutrients, synthesizing proteins, filtering blood, maintaining optimal blood sugar levels, and many other digestive and detoxifying functions.
In particular, the effects of alcohol can destroy healthy liver tissue, replacing it with scar tissue. And, if enough scarring is present, it can cause cirrhosis of the liver, whereby this organ no longer functions correctly.
Heavy drinking of alcohol can also inflame the liver, a condition known as alcoholic hepatitis.
In addition, large quantities of alcohol may interfere with the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Examples include vitamin B1, vitamin B12, and zinc.
Due to this malabsorption, a number of health problems can arise: fatigue, abdominal pain, rapid weight loss, immune deficiencies, and more.
Disruption of Sleep Patterns
Some people might think alcohol helps them to sleep. That’s because they may fall asleep right after drinking.
In truth, though, alcohol often prevents people from entering the rapid eye movement (REM) stage, the deepest stage of sleeping. Consequently, a night’s sleep will be less beneficial and refreshing. Excessive drinking also causes hangovers the next day that can make you feel sick and sluggish.
Over time, low-quality sleep can sometimes cause certain health issues, including diabetes, hypertension, and even heart failure.
Alcohol and the Skin
As we get older, our epidermis — the outer layer of the skin — thins out, wrinkles, and gets somewhat discolored. Indeed, whenever we’re trying to guess someone’s age, we’re usually looking at that person’s skin to figure it out.
Heavy alcohol consumption, however, can speed up skin aging in a number of ways. For instance, the dehydration and malabsorption issues that we discussed above make skin appear older. When skin lacks water and nutrients, it becomes less supple and elastic.
Dead skin cells will then collect on top of the epidermis, leading to discoloration. Chronic dehydration can likewise dry out the skin, causing it to crack and flake.
Moreover, alcohol sometimes triggers the skin cells to release a chemical compound called histamine. Histamine can make the skin itchy and red.
Likewise, alcohol can induce blood vessels in the face to expand; that situation also causes redness. And, over time, facial redness can become a permanent feature.
Then there’s collagen. Collagen is the main protein that makes skin firm. But, when alcohol depletes nutrients, the body can’t make as much collagen. That leads to looser skin.
On top of that, alcohol releases chemicals inside the body called free radicals. Free radicals attack and damage collagen, producing fine lines and wrinkles.
Alcohol-Related Lifestyle Factors Contributing to Aging
Alcohol can hasten aging in indirect ways as well. That’s because, as medical studies have indicated, people tend to adopt unhealthy habits in groups. Experts aren’t exactly sure why that’s true. But it’s long been a common phenomenon.
For instance, people who drink heavily often have diets that are low in nutritional value. And poor diets — especially those with lots of processed foods — can cause persistent inflammation, aging cells faster.
People who drink heavily are also two to three times as likely to smoke as those who don’t. Smoking also weakens collagen, and lines around the eyes and mouth are especially prevalent among smokers.
Not to mention, alcohol is a depressant that causes chemical changes in the brain. Those alterations can lead to stronger feelings of stress and anxiety. And negative stress can cause inflammation and protein damage. Once again, the skin will wrinkle, loosen, and otherwise age, making look and feel old. In addition to that, alcohol causes your body to release more stress hormones, which speeds up the aging process.
Cutting Back on Alcohol
One way to avoid these premature aging effects is to drink alcohol moderately. For men, that means a maximum of two drinks per day and eight drinks per week. For women, it means having no more than one drink a day and five drinks a week.
Furthermore, to avoid dehydration, drink water before, after, and as you consume alcohol.
Plus, no matter how much alcohol you drink, you might slow the effects of aging by living the healthiest lifestyle you can. Eat a balanced diet, get a regular physical, exercise vigorously several times per week, take nutritional supplements as needed, and get eight hours of sleep every night. Aside from countering the effects of aging, this can be beneficial for your health.
Of course, alcohol consumption always carries risks and side effects: a greater chance of heart disease, depression, liver disease, mental health problems. some types of cancer, impaired judgment and motor skills, and many more.
In fact, maybe you want to stop drinking, but you’re having trouble doing so. If that’s the case, the best course of action is to seek the help of caring experts — people like the staff members at Miracles Recovery Center.
For more information about what we can do for you, please call Miracles Recovery Center at any time.
Can alcohol consumption cause premature aging?
Yes, excessive alcohol consumption can contribute to premature aging. Alcohol can dehydrate the skin, cause inflammation, and increase oxidative stress, which can lead to the breakdown of collagen and elastin. This can result in wrinkles, sagging skin, and an overall aged appearance.
How does alcohol affect the skin?
Alcohol can have several negative effects on the skin, including dehydration, inflammation, and vasodilation (widening of blood vessels). These factors can lead to a dull complexion, redness, puffiness, and the development of fine lines and wrinkles over time.
Does moderate alcohol consumption have the same aging effects?
Moderate alcohol consumption is less likely to have significant aging effects compared to excessive consumption. However, it is still essential to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including staying hydrated, eating a balanced diet, and practicing proper skincare, to minimize the impact of alcohol on the skin.
Are certain types of alcohol worse for aging?
While excessive consumption of any type of alcohol can contribute to premature aging, some types may have a more significant impact. For example, alcohol with high sugar content, such as sweet cocktails or wine, can exacerbate inflammation and contribute to glycation, a process that damages collagen and elastin in the skin.
Can the aging effects of alcohol be reversed?
While some of the aging effects of alcohol can be mitigated through lifestyle changes, such as reducing alcohol consumption, staying hydrated, and maintaining a healthy diet, not all effects can be entirely reversed. However, proper skincare and treatments like facials, chemical peels, or laser therapy may help improve the skin’s appearance.
How does alcohol affect other aspects of aging?
Apart from skin aging, alcohol can also impact other aspects of aging. Excessive alcohol consumption can contribute to cognitive decline, liver damage, cardiovascular issues, and a weakened immune system, all of which can accelerate the aging process.
Can alcohol consumption lead to age-related diseases?
Excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to an increased risk of developing age-related diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, liver cirrhosis, and certain types of cancer.
What is considered moderate alcohol consumption?
Moderate alcohol consumption is generally defined as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. A standard drink is typically 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits (80-proof).
How can I minimize the aging effects of alcohol?
To minimize the aging effects of alcohol, consider reducing your alcohol intake, staying hydrated, eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, practicing proper skincare, and avoiding smoking or excessive sun exposure.
Is it better to avoid alcohol completely for anti-aging purposes?
While avoiding alcohol completely can eliminate its potential aging effects, moderate alcohol consumption may not cause significant aging concerns for most individuals. It is essential to find a balance that works for you and prioritize a healthy lifestyle to maintain a youthful appearance and overall well-being.