The festive season is in full swing and most of us might be eating or drinking too much as we celebrate not wisely but too well. Now, a new study has now proven what many of us have suspected. An unhealthy lifestyle, particularly drinking heavily or smoking, can drastically age us.
A large-scale Danish study, recently published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, questioned more than 11,000 Danes about their eating, smoking and drinking habits.
Four markers of ageing were identified – the formation of an opaque ring around the eye’s cornea, creases on the earlobe, plaques on the eyelids and hair loss.
“We wanted to study the signs of ageing because they seem to have some kind of predictive value for how long your life is going to be on average,” says Janne Tolstrup, the study’s author, who is research director of the National Institute of Public Health at the University of Southern Denmark.
The study found that heavy drinking – more than 28 drinks a week for women – resulted in a 33% higher likelihood of having grey rings around the cornea than those women who drank moderately. Heavy smokers also had a greater chance of developing these rings. In fact, the only ageing marker that wasn’t affected by lifestyle habits was male pattern baldness, confirming that progressive hair thinning is mainly affected by genetics.
How lifestyle factors accelerate the ageing process
Alcohol dehydrates your body, forcing your kidneys to remove excess water from elsewhere in the body. Your skin, the largest organ in the body, is therefore left parched after a heavy drinking session. As well as zapping the skin’s moisture levels, alcohol deprives the body of vitamin A which is essential for cell renewal and turnover.
Also, alcohol and, to an even greater degree, smoking speeds up the depletion of collagen levels in the skin, causing premature wrinkling and sagging skin. After a certain point, a facelift or other facial rejuvenation surgery procedure is the only way to address this ageing concern.
The good news is that the Danish study found that those who drank lightly aged at the same rate as those that didn’t drink at all, so you do not have to abstain totally this festive season but enjoy everything in moderation.
With best wishes for Christmas and the New Year!
Mr Richard Matthews