|Young and Sober!
More Reasons to Watch Your Drinking
As Christian Bale’s murderous businessman in the film adaptation of American
Psycho says, it is best not to use alcohol-based facial masks, since these make
skin drier, and therefore older-looking. Therefore, savvy beauty product
devotees would do well to scan the ingredients list of any supposedly great
product before buying into the hype uncritically. This is good advice—after all,
if you cannot trust a psychopath, who can you trust?
Sarcasm aside, however, there is a real connection between the use of alcohol
and aging. Actually, the link goes far beyond the ingredients in facial
cleansers or toners. Drinking alcohol (not just putting it on your face) can
also have an aging effect.
Drinking a lot might make people feel “young”: reckless, carefree, confident,
cheerful, etc., but only for a while. However, the cumulative effect of high
alcohol consumption over several years can make a person feel and look much
older than they actually are chronologically.
We can begin to examine this effect by going back to what we said at the
beginning: alcohol dehydrates. This is true whether you drink it or apply it
topically. In beverages, alcohol can act as a diuretic. It makes you urinate
more than you otherwise would, which makes your body lose essential water
resources. Excessive drinking is also linked to problems in the cardiovascular
system, liver, and kidneys.
Furthermore, research suggests that alcohol speeds up aging on the sub-cellular
level. Here, we emphasize the “caps” on the end of DNA strands called telomeres.
These bits of DNA material help keep your genes in order. Shortened or degraded
telomeres are associated with aging. In the study, heavy drinkers had much
smaller telomeres than those of other people who drank less but had similar
lifestyles and habits in most other respects.
Recently, a twenty-year study done on 314 individuals in Britain was concluded.
The study covered the impacts of four behaviors—one of them being alcohol
intake—on health and length of life. Deaths during the study were
disproportionately higher in those who engaged in the “unhealthy” behaviors as
compared to those who did not.
How much is too much? Well, it really depends. In general, women are a bit more
susceptible to alcohol-induced health problems than men are, so more than two
drinks a day is excessive for most women, while the threshold for most men is at
three drinks daily. These are the amounts used as cutoffs by the researchers who
conducted the study.
It is difficult to measure the impact of alcohol intake on a person’s health
without taking into account their other lifestyle habits. If you drink a great
deal, but otherwise maintain a healthy diet and make sure to have regular
exercise, you will probably be in better shape than a person who drinks the same
amount but has a high-fat diet and is mainly sedentary.
Drinking causes risks for a number of reasons. Sometimes, the danger comes
suddenly, as in a car accident brought on by drunk driving. However, there are
other types of damage that creep up on you slowly. If you would like to make the
most of your health and usefulness, consider whether your alcohol intake might
be making you older than you should be.
Alleyne, Richard. “Drinking accelerates ageing of cells.” Telegraph.co.uk. 21Apr
2010. Telegraph Media Group Limited. 01 May 2010. <
Tanner, Lindsey. “Bad habits can age you by 12 years, study suggests.”
Yahoo!Health. 26 Apr 2010. Yahoo! Inc. 01 May 2010.