The Dangers of Drinking Amplify with Age

When you hit your 40s you may need bigger print to read comfortably, a bigger belt size and even a bigger size shoe. But what you definitely do not need is a bigger serving of alcohol. In fact, medical experts say that as you age your aging body simply cannot handle alcohol consumption as it once did. As much as you may fight against the ravages of time with hours of Pilates and kickboxing, the fact is that the human body changes with age. Many of those changes mean that a person cannot metabolize alcohol as quickly in their forties as they did in their twenties or thirties. And that means that the effects of alcohol are felt more intensely. After age 40 your body begins to lose muscle mass and tends to accumulate more fat. Since muscle absorbs alcohol but fat does not, this means that a 40 year old who drinks the same amount as a 30 year old will have more alcohol circulating in their system. Like so many other body parts, the liver gets bigger with age. However, there is less blood flowing to the liver and the liver functions less efficiently with the advancing years. Since the majority of alcohol metabolization takes place in the liver this means that an older person feels drunk sooner and longer than a younger person. Some of the processing of alcohol does take place in the stomach, but this also slows down with age. The stomach enzyme which breaks down alcohol is simply not in as plentiful supply by the time you are 40. Again, this leaves the older person vulnerable to getting intoxicated more quickly and feeling a hangover more intensely. There are also brain changes that affect how well you tolerate alcohol. It isn’t only your attitude which gets sluggish in your fourth decade of life, your neurons do too. The myelin sheath is one thing that gets smaller with age, but don’t rejoice. Myelin covers each neuron, and since brain communication is dependent upon the myelin sheath, thinking and mental processing slows down. This means that the mental impairment caused by alcohol is even worse after 40. Last but not least, those in their forties tend to be taking more medication. Even if it’s only over-the-counter medication, this creates a problem. For example, heartburn medication slows down the metabolic process, meaning a drinker experiences higher blood alcohol content faster. Another example: The same enzymes which process Tylenol in the liver are needed to process alcohol. Taking Tylenol and drinking alcohol makes the liver work twice as hard and can even damage the liver. In short, everything about alcohol is exaggerated with age. Alcohol is always taxing to the human body. With every passing year, that tax becomes harder and more dangerous to pay.

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