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Aging and Alcohol

There’s a long list of gripes about aging but one that is often overlooked is the declining efficiency of an aging liver, which is pretty important when it comes to metabolizing alcohol.

 

Recently The Wall Street Journal’s Andrea Peterson took a sober look at how after 40, men and women become less tolerant of alcohol.  There are myriad reasons.  People tend to drink more in their 20s and 30s.  By the time they reach 40, work and family pressures usually mean less partying and drinking and tolerance is lowered.  As people age, they tend to lose muscle and acquire fat.  Alcohol is not distributed in fat.  Also, as we age, we lose body water.  So a person with less muscle and body water and more fat will have more alcohol in their bloodstream.

 

While the liver gets bigger as we age, it also become more inefficient.  The enzymes used to break down alcohol also decrease.  As a result, many people find the one or two drinks they’ve enjoyed for years suddenly create quite a buzz, even substantial impairment.  Some of that is due to aging brain functions, too.

 

Another complication can be medications.  Aging invariably involves more medications many of which, when combined with alcohol, are downright dangerous.

 

On the bright side, moderate drinking is linked to reduced cardiovascular disease and death overall.  Moderate is defined as up to two drinks a day for men and one for women.  A standard drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine and 1.5 ounces of liquor.

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