Hangovers Getting Worse as You Age?

girls out

Remember the good old days when you could go out with your friends, have a few cocktails and not worry about feeling  hungover the next day? I remember when I first moved to NYC in my early 20’s. We’d often go to happy hour (um … yes, even nutritionists did that) and then continue on into the wee hours of the night.  I can’t even imagine how many drinks were consumed. And the next day I felt fine – I’d even go teach several aerobic classes early in the morning.  How times have changed! Now even 1-2 glasses of wine can make my head throb the next day

Last week I was out with the girls for a belated holiday celebration (see pic). After several drinks , most of us were ready to call it a night because “we had things to do the next day” – in other words, we were a little fearful of feeling hungover.  Of course the question got directed to me : why are hangovers worse as we age?  So I did a little research …

Alcohol, aging and metabolism
Bad news  – we become more sensitive to alcohol as we get older. As people age, the body’s ability to absorb and dispose of alcohol and other drugs changes. I did a little research and found the booze guru – Jim Schaefer, an alcohol metabolism expert and an anthropology professor at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y. He explains “The critical enzymes for breaking down booze are somewhat diminished in efficiency as we age. The enzymes your body depends on to break down booze are alcohol dehydrogenase, or ALDH, and aldehyde dehydrogenase, or ADH. Excuse the alphabet soup, but ALDH breaks down ethanol (booze) into acetaldehyde, and then ADH breaks down the acetaldehyde into a non-toxic substance called acetic acid. It has been suggested that acetaldehyde is one of the key toxic chemicals that influences the severity of a hangovers. So any deterioration in ADH levels would contribute to worse hangovers.”

Tips lessen the chances of a  hangover
You obviously can’t reverse aging or improve the effectiveness of these enzymes needed to process alcohol, so you’ll need to come up with a plan. Here some tips:
1. The obvious – drink less! I have a few tricks on how to drink less socially as I know this is a tough one for people who go out a lot. Check out these tips on Putting the Brakes on Booze (I was a guest blogger on Appetite for Health)

2. Avoid cheap booze. Dr. Schaefer says “ cheap alcoholic beverages can also influence the severity of a hangover due to the higher presence of congeners, the “chemical soup” resulting from the fermentation and distillation processes.The more expensive liquors are often filtered and triple or more distilled — thus, cleaner alcohol, less junk.”

3. On the days you know you’ll be having a few drinks, make sure you are very hydrated by the time you have your first drink. Personally, I get a major headache the next day if I had a glass of wine or two when I am dehydrated.

Now if you get that hangover (ounch!), here are some tips I had on a previous blog post on how to deal with it :  How to Deal with the Dreaded Hangover


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