Why hangovers get worse as we grow older
The next time a hangover hits you hard the morning after a late-night party, look in the mirror to see if your hair is turning white or your hairline is receding.
Yes, age is a major factor in the way drinking affects you.
Worsening impact of hangovers are a reminder that drinking in moderation would be a better idea, say health experts.
“The capacity of our liver to cope with alcohol reduces with age. The alcohol metabolising enzyme reduces and the body fat increases reducing muscle mass, thus increasing the effect of alcohol,” Dr Rahul Tambe, general physician from Nanavati Super Specialty Hospital in Mumbai told.
"Elderly people are often on multiple medication which interferes with alcohol metabolism. Losing weight causes reduced distribution of alcohol in body causing greater intoxication and hangover,” he added.
According to Dr Yogesh Batra, senior consultant (gastroenterology) at BLK Super Specialty Hospital in New Delhi, with age, there is an accumulation of substances like acetaldehyde in the liver which are the byproducts of alcohol metabolism and are one of the "incriminating agents" responsible for hangovers.
“There is brain degeneration with age and the toxic products tend to hit the brain harder. There is a tendency towards dehydration as the ageing population tends to drink less water which leads to hangovers,” Dr Batra said.
Hangover or veisalgia is usually experienced after an alcoholic over-indulgence. The symptoms experienced range from a simple headache to severe nausea, vomiting, giddiness, fatigue and sweating. In some people, it can even lead to anxiety or panic attacks.
Severity of hangover depends on amount of alcohol intake, frequency of heavy drinking and food intake.
Is there a cure for hangover?
"Eat more before and after the alcoholic consumption. Besides eating, drinking loads of fluids will also help. Lime water is the best fluid which can be consumed before and after the alcoholic consumption,” advises Dr Deepak Verma, general physician from Columbia Asia Hospital in Ghaziabad.
Alcohol consumption can irritate the stomach lining, leading to gastritis. So, food and fluids taken before and after alcoholic consumption help to reduce the gastric irritation, the experts note.
There is, however, no definite cure for hangover. It is best dealt with adequate sleep or rest, plenty of liquids and food.
“Painkillers like aspirin relieves headache but may increase acidity. Number of household remedies are being tried but they often worsens the hangover. One thing that definitely should not be tried is drinking again in the morning,” informs Tambe.
Drinking early morning to get over a hangover is one of the first signs of alcohol dependence and requires urgent help from a de-addiction specialist, experts warn.
As we age, the supply of alcohol dehydrogenase (the enzyme which is required for digesting alcohol) decreases.
“Women are more prone to hangovers than men because of the difference in alcohol metabolism,” says Dr Rajnish Moonga, senior consultant (gastroenterology) at Paras Hospital in Gurgaon.
Hangovers are not well studied by the medical fraternity as it focuses more on alcoholism and alcohol withdrawal.
“There is no specific guideline for prevention and cure of a hangover. The only way to prevent hangover is to control your drinking habits,” he points out.
Those who feel that losing weight will control hangovers are probably wrong.
“Losing weight leads to even worse hangovers. Since the effective alcohol concentration in the body is going to be more hence those who lose weight should reduce drinking,” says Dr Batra.
In the end, preventing a hangover is easy -- drink in moderation, space out your drinks, have plenty of water and eat. But then who doesn't know this?