Why Age and Alcohol are NOT a Good Mix

The older you get, the worse it is for you.

Photo by Marc Pell on Unsplash

“Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.” – Benjamin Franklin.

Itseems that there are very few things that we could do when we were younger that we just don’t have the capacity to do in the same manner as we age.

Think it’s a good idea to race your friend on a whim to see who can get to the mailbox and back the fastest?

It’s probably not unless you think walking in a boot after tearing your MCL sounds like fun.

Don’t have the time to prepare for your Toastmasters meeting on Monday, so thinking you’ll wing it like you used to do presentations in high school?

There’s a good chance your mind will be completely blank when it’s time for you to give your speech.

Want to party Friday and Saturday, and then do brunch on Sunday to celebrate your bday weekend to the fullest?

Don’t be surprised if the thought of drinking back-to-back days sounds like a nightmare by Saturday and the thought of getting out of bed Sunday before noon feels equally terrifying.

The reality is there are a number of things that are so much harder on our bodies and minds as we age, and probably the top culprit in this list of challenging substances is alcohol.

There are a number of ways that alcohol hurts us as we age of which we should all be wary.

It can dehydrate and dry your skin

The global skincare market most recently was clocked at $39.2 billion in 2020.

This is a great indicator of how important looking young is to some in a world in which beauty and youth appear to always be celebrated.

Enter alcohol into the picture, and it can greatly damage an individual’s skin in a number of ways.

First, it dehydrates the skin and deprives it of the nutrients it needs to help it look radiant and healthy. Alcohol is a diuretic, so it actively draws water away from the body and this leads to significantly lower water levels in one’s body.

Next, this dehydration can lead to congestion in the skin, which is the build-up of dead skin cells and impurities. This could eventually lead to nasty-looking blackheads and even acne.

It can weaken your immune system

As you age, your immune system tends to naturally weaken.

It’s not significantly weaker, but there is a noticeable difference, which is why older individuals have to be careful about contacting certain cases of flu or viruses that are typically benign to younger people.

Alcohol doesn’t help this in any capacity, as it damages your immune system through various parts of your body and makes it much more difficult to fight off diseases when one has been recently inebriated or drinks heavily versus someone who hasn’t recently drank or doesn’t drink at all.

The other way it hurts is it is possible to trigger inflammation in the gut and destroy the good probiotic microorganisms that live in your body that keep it healthy and functioning properly.

This has been linked to a much-heightened chance of contracting dangerous cases of viral infections, such as pneumonia and other pulmonary diseases.

It can slow your mental capacity considerably

Not being able to remember where we left our car keys or the name of one of our favorite actors is a scary proposition as we age, and the reality is that drinking heavily as we get older makes the likelihood that this will happen much greater.

Similar to our immune system, there is the reality that our brain naturally begins to shrink in volume, particularly in the frontal cortex. This makes it more challenging for our brain to process information as quickly and efficiently as we did before.

The other aspect of this is that we just have way more information at 40 than we did in our brain at 20.

Therefore, it is going to take much longer to get through all of that info to pull the small piece of information we may be looking for in relation to a particular question.

If we could use a highway analogy, we have way more cars on the road that we have to get through to get from point A to point B.

When we drink alcohol, it’s as if we reduce the number of highways that we give our cars access to and reduce their speed to no faster than 60 miles per hour.

Research has shown individuals who drank excessively into their older age saw much greater brain shrinkage than those who didn’t drink at all.

They also lost more of their brain “fluency,” which is a combination of one’s memory and overall thinking skills.

It can hurt a number of different vital organs and increase your chances of cancer

Everyone is naturally aware of the effects that alcohol has on our liver, but it also makes our heart and kidney have to work much harder than they would have to otherwise.

The main effect has to do with how hard your body has to work to break down all the toxins from alcohol. Breaking down these toxins makes it almost impossible to not then take away from other organs that need the blood that is deviated from them.

From a cancer perspective, the ethanol from alcohol breaks down into acetaldehyde and is a carcinogen that increases your chances of cancer as it creates the possibility of dangerous mutations of your cells in your body.

With age comes more opportunities for your cells to dangerously interact with each other, which in turn increases the chance of cancer. The more you drink to exacerbate this possibility, the more likely these could result in a number of different cancers throughout the body.

And while we would hope that as we get older, we’ll be smart enough to not allow alcohol to be such a driving force in our lives, the reality is that the way it is designed, if you’re not cognizant of it and careful, it’ll only become more.