Health  

‘Heavy drinking, smoking makes us older’


Heavy drinking and smoking make you look visibly older, sooner, according to new findings of a study that has followed more than 11,500 people over 40 years.

Men and women who drank 28 or more drinks each week and smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for more than 15 years were far more likely to develop four physical signs of aging earlier in life than normal.

Only those that smoked or drank heavily showed significant early signs of ageing.Those that abstained from drinking and smoking or did either only lightly or in moderation all aged at about the same rate.

The Danish researchers chose four signs of aging – earlobe creases, grey rings or arcs around the corneas, yellow-orange skin tags and male pattern baldness – that have been linked to increased risks of heart disease and even death.

High-risk drinking – consisting of four or more drinks a day for women and five or more a day each week – rose by nearly 30 percent between 2002 and 2013, according to an article published earlier this year in JAMA.

The purely cosmetic effects of smoking and drinking are well documented. Drinking dehydrates and inflames your skin, making wrinkles and inconsistencies in skin tone more obvious.

The tell-tale signs of smoking are in the lips, which develop fine lines, but the habit is tied to reduced collagen production, which damages the elasticity of the skin throughout the body, leading to sagging and wrinkly skin.

But, as the Danish researchers set out to demonstrate, some signs of the aging effects of smoking and drinking go further than skin deep.Both cigarette smoking and alcohol use elevate the risk of a wide array of potentially fatal diseases.

The researchers from the National Institute of health in Copenhagen, Denmark chose to measure physical signs linked to some of the most common alcohol and tobacco-related diseases, heart disease.

The Danish researchers chose four signs of aging – earlobe creases, grey rings or arcs around the corneas, yellow-orange skin tags and male pattern baldness – that have been linked to increased risks of heart disease and even death.

The long-running study began in 1976 and has since add to and followed a group of more than 11,500 people. Now, their ages range between 21 and 86, with an average age of 51. More than half of the women and two thirds of the men in the study reported that they are currently smokers.

The women, on the whole, drank an average of 2.6 drinks each week, while the men drank 11.4 drinks on average.Women that drank 28 or more drinks a week – four times the average number – were 33 percent more likely to develop the aging rings, while women who had 35 or more drinks a week were 35 percent more likely to develop the same trait.

The smokers that lit up a pack or more each day for between 15 and 30 years were 41 percent more likely to developed the tell-tale sign of ageing.
Overall, the people that fell into the ‘heavy’ categories for drinking or smoking were more likely to develop any or all of the four signs of aging earlier in life.

The study authors note that they simply made the connections between these signs of visible aging related to heart disease, and their subjects’ drinking and smoking vices.

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