Why Do Hangovers Seem So Much Worse As We Age

Ah, youth. Those hard living years of late nights, copious drinks, empty bank accounts, and nary a wrinkle. But now you're 30, and suddenly 1.5 glasses of wine with dinner and you're feeling it for 2 tired and irritable all day long days. So what's with that? Why does it seem like so many of us can no longer process alcohol in our 30s?

Liver and Let Live

There are a few scientific reason why that dirty martini might be making you feel worse as you age. The first has to do with your liver, which is responsible for processing alcohol.  

When you drink alcohol, your liver processes it through a few steps. The first step is to convert it into a highly toxic substance called acetaldehyde, which it then converts into a non-toxic substance called acetate. When you drink too much, your liver can't break down the toxic acetaldehyde at a quick enough rate, and it releases into your bloodstream, causing a lot of the symptoms we associate with a hangover.

In order for your body to convert acetaldehyde into acetate, it relies on an antioxidant called glutathione. But as you age, your body's capacity to generate glutathione decreases. Lower amounts of glutathione means you get way worse hangovers. 

Our Bodies Ourselves

There's also the issue of our changing bodies. As most of us age, we lose muscle and gain more fat. Muscle contains a lot of water, which helps keep your blood alcohol levels lower. So if you're young, fit, and lean, you'll have a higher tolerance than someone with a higher BMI.

However, while this particular reason is very real, it tends to apply more to people 60 and over- so if you're only in your 30s and just starting to really feel those hangovers, it's probably not because your body has changed that drastically.

Things Get Real

Which leads to the final, and most logical, reason you're noticing the effects of alcohol so much more than you used to. The fact is, most of us have more responsibilities than we did when we were younger and it's a lot harder to spend a day just getting by while dealing with a major hangover. In my early 20s, it didn't seem too bad to trade in a wild and crazy night for a sluggish morning in my art history class. Now, I have important meetings and deadlines on most days, and I'm way less able to get away with being out of it.

On that same note, many of us drink less day to day than we used to for the same reason. This means your tolerance is lower- which leads to worse hangovers when you drink the same or even less alcohol than you used to. 

The bad news is you're probably not going to bounce back from a night of beer pong the way you once did. The good news is, no one 30 or over needs to play beer pong, and since you're getting good and buzzed a lot quicker than you used to, you can spend the money you're saving on some nice, expensive, 30 year older person red wine. 


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