Do Hangovers Get Worse As We Age?
We know our eyesight and hearing get worse as we age. We are aware that are aches and pains get more severe. We know that as we age our ability to recover from a workout gets worse. But does getting older mean our hangovers will be worse?
The short answer is yes hangovers get worse as we age. The factors that cause hangovers to worsen with age are body make up, brain development, ability to rest and recover, and for some the ability to drink higher quantities.
What age do the hangovers really start to kick in?
An English study found that hangovers start down the path to the darkside around age 29 for most people. At 29 many people still try to party like they were in their early 20’s while adjusting to a more mature lifestyle. At 29 most are in the beginnings of careers which means a higher level of stress and a less healthy diet. This stress can influence the number of hours of sleep on average they are getting a night. The quality of alcohol plays a role at 29 as well. Partying like a rock star with cheap liquor is sure to lead to a bad headache the next day.
“The average hangover lasts 9 hour 45 minutes”
Factors that increase the severity of hangovers as we age:
- Body Make Up: As we age many put on unwanted pounds due to poor eating habits. This increased body mass of fat means we have a lower body water ratio. Having more body fat leads to higher blood alcohol content levels and thus leads to bad hangovers. This may seem a bit counterintuitive, because typically the heavier you are, the higher your alcohol tolerance. But we’re not talking about weight here we’re talking about body fat percentage. Body fat percentage is one of the reasons why women typically respond more intensely to alcohol than men do. Even if a woman and a man both weighed 150 pounds the person with greater body fat percentage would have a slightly higher BAC after the same number of drinks. So an increase in the concentration of blood alcohol as we age in conjunction with a higher tolerance and a decrease in the ability to recover is the perfect recipe for a horrible hangover.
- Brain Development: When we are young our brains have a very good developed reward system while the stress system has yet to come fully online. This means we can go out and get drunk and our body doesn’t punish us with bad hangovers because the stress system is developed yet. So as we age our reward system gives us less rewards and our stress system kicks in telling us our decision to get hammered wasn’t a good one.
- Rest And Recovery: As we age we need better sleep to recover. The problem is when we drink we interrupt our sleep patterns so much it is like we aren’t even sleeping. As we age our body is less effective at recovering from the trauma a big night out can have. Our liver and its ability to clean out our system of the toxins becomes less effective and the majority of alcohol is metabolized by the liver. Our liver changes when we hit our 50s by getting bigger and becoming less efficient. Blood flow decreases, as do the number of hepatocytes, the liver's functional cells. Certain enzyme levels dip, too, including one type of the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase, which breaks down alcohol. Women of all ages tend to have lower levels of this enzyme in the stomach. But between the ages of 50 and 60, men see their levels slide, too. All these changes mean you have a prolonged exposure to alcohol and possibly a stronger reaction when you drink. There's also some evidence that hormonal changes around menopause can increase women's sensitivity to alcohol. Healthy young people tend to metabolize about one drink per hour but as we age our ability to clear it out, rest from it, and recover from a big night of drinking lessens leading to increased hangovers.
So what do we do now that we are old and still want to drink without a hangover?
Here is the eliminate hangovers check list for aging drinkers:
Hydrate: As you get older you have a less water to weight ratio and it is very important to hydrate while you are drinking. Take a step back from the alcohol and have a few glasses of water.
Slow Down: Yes it is actually time to enjoy what you are drinking. Taste the flavors and take time to fully enjoy your adult beverage. Long gone are the days of beer chugging contests and impressing your friends with how many drinks you can have in a night.
Eat: Have a steak or some hot wings. Alcohol metabolizes slower when you have food in your stomach, especially food that’s high in protein. When you drink on an empty stomach, your liver and small intestine have nothing to metabolize other than the alcohol, and therefore the booze will hit you harder and faster. If you haven’t eaten, you could hit your peak blood alcohol content within thirty minutes and if you have eaten, you’ll likely hit your peak blood alcohol content between one and six hours, which is a huge difference and will have a profound impact on the severity of your hangover the next day. Eating before you drink and after with hydration will help.
Be Well Rested: Sleep deprivation can mimic the effects of drinking, so if you aren’t well-rested, the effects will hit you even harder.
We can’t evade age and hangovers can be just as evasive so taking proper measures can help eliminate hangovers as we get older..