Though wellness and self-care have become top of mind for so many, studies have revealed something paradoxical. Women ages 45 to 65 are consuming more alcohol.
Stress appears to be the culprit: work pressures, financial pressures, health (including menopause) challenges, caring for both children and aging parents, and overwhelming emotions (fear, loneliness, lack of worth come to mind). Ann Dowsett Johnston, author of Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol, concurs, “The pace at which most women live is punishing. … The easiest thing to do when you’re standing at the cutting board making dinner is pour yourself a glass of wine. It’s the ultimate decompression tool.”
The perils of alcohol outweigh the “drinking in moderation is good for you!” claims made in the past decade. Those promises of less cardiovascular disease, dementia, gallstones, and more don’t originate in a bottle of cabernet as once believed, according to the CDC. Instead, differences in behavior or genetics likely contribute to any health benefits.
As our happy hour culture thrives on bonding moments — who hasn’t been invited to a book club that’s really an evening of drinking hiding behind a hardback? — doctors are concerned.
Side Effects of Alcohol
The misery of a hangover cannot be overlooked, but the other side effects of alcohol, even in moderation, are significant. Here are seven reasons you might want to quit drinking.
- The ability to metabolize alcohol declines with age due to loss of body fluid. In addition to feeling the effects of the alcohol more, as your body absorbs alcohol faster than you can metabolize, alcohol can build up in your bloodstream and amass acetaldehyde in the liver.
- Age-related changes — eyesight, hearing, slower reflexes — can increase feelings of dizziness. As a result, alcohol-related accidents are rife among older drinkers.
- Drinking can heighten medical conditions such as high blood pressure and ulcers. And changes in the heart and blood vessels due to alcohol can mask signs of a heart attack or other medical issues.
- Older women tend to take more medication, and mixing alcohol with over-the-counter and prescription drugs can be dangerous or even fatal.
- The International Agency for Research on Cancer has findings that alcohol can cause several cancers. Understandably, the more alcohol a person drinks over time, the higher the risk of developing an alcohol-associated cancer, but this also applies to light drinkers.
- Alcohol can worsen menopause symptoms, including hot flashes and night sweats, weight gain, and depression.
- Alcohol is a diuretic. It dries everything out, from your skin to your mucus membranes. So you end up looking older and suffering dryness everywhere — including your vagina.
Quit Drinking to Be Your Best
This reality check is not meant to take the joy from your life, but rather to help you understand how something you do on autopilot might be doing more harm than good. As Holly Whitaker, a pioneer in what’s been dubbed the sober curious movement and author of Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed With Alcohol, declares, “Build a life you don’t want to escape from!”
Never has there been better advice. Recognizing how our drinking culture hurts women, we look to fitness, meditation, travel, friendship, community engagement, and the joy of learning new things (we’re looking at you, guitar!) as gratifying ways for socializing and stress relief. No BYOB required.