You work as a bartender at one of the hottest bars in downtown Tampa. The tips are great, customers are always abundant, and you get to drink on the job – at least while the owner is not looking. You’ve been working here since you turned 22 and fell in love with the late-night lifestyle. The job pays all the bills and still allows you the free time to do what you please. Which typically includes drinking at home, as well.
This lifestyle has been going on for about 6 or 7 years now, and some days you have a hard time waking up. Bottles roll around your apartment as you ready yourself for another night of drinking and serving the patrons at work. You look in the mirror, skin sinking, face hollow, and little wrinkles forming around your eyes and mouth. This must be what you have to look forward to as you prepare to enter your 30s.
A bar guest decides to play a game with you when you get to work, saying if he can guess your age you have to buy him a drink. Playing along, you laugh and tell him to guess. Shock crosses your face when he says 42. You can tell he knows he has upset you as his face drops – this was not a joke, he really thought a 29-year-old was a 42-year-old. Maybe this lifestyle is taking its toll after all.
In Sarasota County 2021, 12.92 per 100,000 residents died of alcoholic liver disease. At Clean Recovery Centers, our program offers wellness components such as massage therapy, chiropractic care, and therapeutic exercise to promote healthy habits when treatment is complete. Our blog is a resource to share and bring awareness to addiction. Today, we are discussing alcoholic aging, and how drinking can lead to more than just internal complications.
Effects of Alcoholic Aging
Prolonged alcohol consumption causes numerous negative effects within the body – from liver cancer to heart disease, high blood pressure, and more. But what about the physical signs of alcoholism? Having a glass or two of wine wouldn’t be a cause for appearance changes, but heavy and binge drinking can lead to changes in the skin and face over time.
While studies are limited on the effects of alcohol and premature aging, there have been a few that highlight certain facts. For example, many studies tried to prove that alcohol changed the shape and size of the nose – known as an alcoholic nose. However, these studies found there was no definitive link between alcohol consumption and the condition. This shows that research on alcohol and appearance needs to be studied further.
How Alcoholism Is Linked to Aging
Despite a lack of research, certain studies have shown that alcohol changes the appearance at the very core of the cell structure – in the DNA. Telomeres are DNA sequences that cap the end of chromosomes. They are responsible for protecting the chromosomes from damage and the telomere length is an indicator of biological aging. When a cell replicates for replacement, 50-100 DNA bases are lost in the process. When telomeres are too short, cells cannot replicate and even die off. Shorter-length telomeres have been linked to aging diseases such as Alzheimer’s and coronary heart disease.
The study examined 245,000 participants, and those who drank less than approximately 500 ml of alcohol per week had longer telomere lengths than those who drank more than 2500 ml of alcohol per week. This equated to approximately 3 to 6 years of age change in the DNA code.
So, what does all of that mean? Those who consumed more alcohol were essentially taking years off of their life physically, while aging prematurely. While the study is relatively new and was seen to require a certain amount of alcohol consumption to notice a difference, it shows how devastating long-term alcohol use can be on life expectancy.
Physical Signs of Aging from Alcoholism
Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it causes an excess flush of fluids from the body leading to dehydration. When the body is dehydrated, the skin becomes dry. Chronic dryness leads to the skin losing its elasticity, leading to wrinkles and looser areas of skin. Alcohol also causes inflammation of the skin, leading to redness and puffiness that over time, doesn’t go away. However, these effects may be slowed and possibly reversed the sooner drinking stops. The skin is able to regenerate itself to an extent, but depending on the stage of alcoholism you are in, the damage can be permanent.
How Excessive Drinking Affects the Body
Excessive drinking can cause a plethora of conditions within the body. Alcohol constricts the blood vessels, making it harder for the heart to pump blood throughout the body. This can cause heart disease, heart attacks, and high blood pressure, as the heart muscle becomes strained to function. With blood flow not circulating correctly, the heart may also produce blood clots, which can lead to strokes.
The liver is responsible for filtering alcohol out of the body. In the process, a toxic chemical called acetaldehyde is produced. While only in the body for a short time, this chemical is the cause of liver cancer as well as other health problems. The sugar content in alcohol can also lead to insulin buildup in the liver, causing a condition called fatty liver.
Cognitive Decline and Memory Loss in Relation to Alcoholic Aging
Drinking alcohol can cause trouble with memory even after one night of drinking. When drinking in excess, enough to lead to alcohol poisoning, the hippocampus of the brain becomes impaired. This area is responsible for memory creation as well as storing old memories for later recollection. When too much alcohol is consumed, memories are not stored, making it seem like the night never happened. This is called a blackout, and while some memories may be retrieved, most are gone for good.
Long-term alcohol use can cause cognitive decline and memory loss. Alcohol-induced dementia can occur after years of drinking, causing mood swings, behavioral changes, balance problems, and difficulty completing tasks. Brain damage can be permanent, and the sooner alcohol consumption stops, the better chances there are that the brain can heal.
Early Signs of Alcoholic Aging
Whether a high-functioning alcoholic or a weekend binge drinker, the effects alcohol has on the skin and body begin as soon as drinking starts. Some early signs that alcohol is beginning to age you include:
- Constant dry skin
- Redness in the face and neck
- Experiencing hangovers after drinking
- Difficulties with memory
Prevention & Treatment Options for Alcoholic Aging in Sarasota County, Florida
While alcoholic aging can cause permanent effects on the body, there is hope to prevent it from happening. Drinking alcohol may feel like a need right now, but it doesn’t have to be that way forever. Finding an alcohol detox and rehab that specializes in treating both the physical and mental side effects of alcohol use disorder is the first step in prioritizing your health. With therapy, life-skill classes, and support, leaving alcohol behind will be possible, and recovery will be welcoming.
If you or someone you love is experiencing the effects of alcoholic aging, it’s not too late to reach out for help. Clean Recovery Centers, located in sunny Florida, has a full spectrum of alcohol use disorder treatment. Our unique, three-phase approach addresses every aspect of addiction: spiritual, physical, mental, and social. Each facility has options for housing so you never have to worry about where you will be staying. Call us today at (888) 330-2532 to learn more about our program offerings.
How quickly does alcohol age you?
There is no clear answer on how fast alcohol can age you. Each person is different, but alcohol is a toxic substance. The effects of alcohol on aging can take years for some and decades for others.
How does alcoholism affect aging?
Alcohol dehydrates the skin, causing wrinkles and loosening. Collagen becomes damaged and dies off, causing loss of elasticity.
Is aging from alcohol reversible?
With proper diet and hydration, the skin may be able to repair itself from alcohol aging. It is not a guarantee, and will depend on the person and their drinking habits.