Most Insurances Accepted!
Call Ardu Recovery Center Today

Does alcohol make you age faster?

Mina Draskovic, B.Psy., reviewed this content for accuracy on January 8, 2024

We are all well aware of the negative effects of alcohol on health—but did you know that heavy drinking can speed up the aging process? 

Years of heavy drinking have measurable, premature aging effects on your skin, brain, bones, heart, and immune system. Researchers at Yale reveal that “heavy alcohol drinking might change the aging clock before one develops medical disease.”

Table of Contents

Are you struggling with alcohol addiction? You can count on Ardu’s alcohol rehab center to provide everything you need to kick your drinking habit and start fresh.

Does alcohol make you age faster?

Years of heavy drinking can significantly expedite aging. It’s not just your skin that suffers from excessive drinking, although this is where the most obvious effects of alcohol-related aging will manifest. Internal organs such as the heart, brain, liver, and pancreas also experience accelerated decline, disease progression, and changes at the cellular level that are consistent with premature aging.

Excessive alcohol consumption affects virtually every part of the human body, but let’s see what organs age prematurely from alcohol.

  1. Alcohol ages your skin.
  2. Alcohol ages your brain, impairing cognition.
  3. Alcohol ages your heart and weakens your cardiovascular health.
  4. Alcohol ages bones and causes nutrient deficiencies.
  5. Alcohol ages and weakens the immune system.

One: alcohol ages the skin

Your skin ages naturally as you get older. This means it loses collagen, elasticity, and firmness. Wrinkles and sagging are a normal part of the aging process because the skin cell turnover rate slows down, and new cells take longer to be created. Too many alcoholic beverages certainly speed up the aging process.

A 2019 study found that higher levels of alcohol consumption increase the severity of facial aging. 

In heavy drinkers (i.e., those who consumed eight or more drinks per week), seven facial features were significantly associated with an appearance of more severe aging than in women who did not consume alcohol. 

Heavy alcohol use can lead to more noticeable facial lines, make the eyes puffy and swollen, and make the blood vessels on the face more visible, causing skin redness.

Here are some of the ways alcohol accelerates skin aging:

  1. Alcohol’s inflammatory properties degrade collagen and elastin, which makes skin sag and wrinkle faster.
  2. Inflammation generates free radicals that destroy antioxidants. Antioxidants help protect youthful skin cell DNA from aging stressors. More free radicals and fewer antioxidants lead to accelerated aging.
  3. Alcohol dehydrates your skin, robbing it of elasticity and natural plumpness.
  4. Alcohol constricts tiny blood vessels in the dermis, impairing nutrient flow to skin cells and slowing their renewal process.

If you want to keep your skin looking youthful and healthy, limit your alcohol consumption.

Two: binge drinking shrinks the brain and speeds mental decline

Did you know that alcohol can physically shrink your brain and dull your mind? Angebrandt, et. al. found that “even low-level alcohol consumption is associated with premature brain aging.” Alcohol-related brain damage involves premature aging and cognitive decline. Here’s how:

  • Excessive drinking shrinks brain volume by damaging white matter connections and thinning out gray matter responsible for cognitive functions. 
  • Binge drinking kills off neurons in the prefrontal cortex—the part of your brain that handles planning, inhibition, and focus—resulting in accelerated aging.
  • Heavy alcohol consumption also reduces the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain, starving your neurons and inhibiting neurogenesis. You need fresh brain cells to keep the brain working properly, but without them, neuroplasticity is compromised and aging accelerates.
  • Changes to the structure and function of the brain lead to cognitive deficits. This cognitive impairment doubles the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. 

It’s never too late to make positive changes in your life. The first crucial step toward health and longevity is to seek help. Contact Ardu Recovery Center and learn how to take care of your brain’s health.

Three: heavy drinking ages the cardiovascular system

You may be surprised to hear this, but alcohol expedites the aging of the cardiovascular system, increasing the risk of heart disease. Both acute and chronic excessive alcohol consumption can disrupt the heart’s circuitry, leading to arrhythmias and other age-related cardiovascular issues.

Alcohol stiffens and weakens heart muscle fibers by causing abnormal protein changes and the buildup of scar tissue. This leads to enlarged heart chambers and thinner, overworked walls, which impairs contractile function. 

Booze also irritates delicate electrical pathways in the heart which are responsible for keeping heartbeat steady and coordinated. The resulting arrhythmias and other conduction disorders are indicative of premature aging. 

Let’s not forget alcohol’s damaging effects on the heart. Through direct toxicity, oxygen deprivation, and weakened heart muscle, heavy alcohol consumption ultimately ages the heart and blood vessels from the inside out.

Four: alcohol depletes nutrients vital for bone health

You might not think knocking back drinks can weaken your bones over time, but alcohol may damage your skeletal health and accelerate bone aging. Alcohol prevents your body from properly absorbing bone-strengthening nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D. Less nutrient absorption coupled with more calcium being flushed out through frequent urination deprives the bones of what they need to stay healthy.

In addition to poor nutrient intake, alcohol also sabotages the sex hormone balance that is critical for healthy bone renewal. Moderate estrogen and testosterone levels allow for bone cells to be broken down and regenerated, which helps maintain bone density and flexibility. Heavy drinking disrupts hormone metabolism and bone cell regeneration.

Read more about the detrimental effects of alcohol on testosterone.

Between nutrient deficiencies, compromised hormones, and cell regeneration issues, alcohol gradually decreases bone mineral density and overall mass. This is the perfect storm for osteoporosis, bone brittleness, sudden fractures, and other complications. 

If you’re worried about the negative effects of alcohol on your health, Ardu can help kick aging stressors to the curb. Our nutrition therapy program complements your alcohol detox journey by providing education and meal planning guidance that is focused on restoring your health.

Five: alcohol impairs and prematurely ages the immune system

Years of heavy drinking can quietly ravage your immune system’s defenses which are critical for health and longevity. Excessive alcohol consumption sabotages the immune system, which is the body’s frontline for fighting infection and disease. A 2015 study found an “association between excessive alcohol consumption and adverse immune-related health effects.”

Research shows that immune cells cannot properly regulate alcohol-induced inflammation that damages the protective barrier in our intestines. This makes it easier for bacteria and toxins to slip into the bloodstream and travel to the liver and brain. The alcohol-induced impairment of intestinal barrier integrity and increased systemic inflammation mirrors inflammatory aging in older adults.

Immune-related organs such as the thymus gland shrink faster among current drinkers, exhibiting atrophy similar to immunosenescence—the gradual decline of immunity with old age. DNA analysis shows excessive drinking accelerates the aging of immune system cells and genes.

It’s not just alcohol that ruins your immune function. Drugs and alcohol together can wreck the immune system and cause irreparable damage. Compassionate support for your addiction is available, without judgment, whenever you feel ready. 

Our experienced team at Ardu’s drug and alcohol rehab specializes in assisting people to achieve healing and regain wellness in body, mind, and spirit.

Does drinking once a week cause premature aging?

The effects of alcohol on aging seem to be dose-dependent: the more you drink on a regular basis, the more significant the effects of premature aging will be on your skin, brain, heart, and other organs. Moderate alcohol consumption is unlikely to cause significant premature aging effects. 

Moderate drinking for women means up to one drink per day. For men, it’s up to two drinks per day. One standard drink is equivalent to:

  • 12 oz. regular beer
  • 5 oz. wine
  • 1.5 oz. distilled spirits

Drinking more than these suggested limits can increase aging-related risks, especially for women. With that said, plenty of factors affect individual susceptibility: genes, lifestyle habits, medications, existing medical conditions, and others.

Less is truly best when it comes to alcohol consumption and longevity. Consider keeping the bottle closed as often as possible and prioritize your health & wellness. If you’re struggling to remain sober, our caring and supportive staff at Ardu can guide you through the six stages of recovery, from managing withdrawal symptoms to achieving sobriety. 

Can you reverse aging from alcohol?

Your body has an amazing ability to rebound and regenerate once alcohol is out of the picture. It is possible to reverse some of the aging effects caused by cumulative alcohol consumption, however, not all damage alcohol inflicts on your health may be completely reversible.

Here are some good ways to reverse the aging effects of alcohol:

  • For the skin, consider proper hydration, nutritional support, and collagen-stimulating creams and supplements to help smooth wrinkles. 
  • Your brain will recover from alcohol when you quit—to some extent. While you may be able to generate new neurons and rebuild lost white and gray matter, cognition is unlikely to fully bounce back after decades of drinking. 
  • Your heart can also improve, but arrhythmias and cardiomyopathies may linger. 
  • When it comes to immunity and bone density, include some vital vitamins and minerals in your diet and adopt a good exercise regimen to maximize anti-aging benefits. 

Although some of the age-related effects of alcohol may persist, the longer you abstain from drinking, the more youth-restoring regeneration can take place. It’s never too late to start helping your body recover.

Ardu Recovery Center can help

Anyone struggling with alcohol abuse or addiction is welcome in our alcohol addiction treatment program. Our dedicated team of professionals is here to guide and support you in your addiction recovery journey, laying the foundation for long-term sobriety and relapse prevention.

At our rehab center in Provo, Utah, our team specializes in:

To enroll in an Ardu alcohol rehab program, contact us online or via phone (801-810-1234). We will do our best to find a recovery path that works for you throughout the detox process and beyond. For more information, read our admissions process page.

Getting proper treatment empowers you to manage alcoholism while implementing lifestyle changes to improve your health and counteract the negative effects of long-term drinking. With compassion and expertise, we can help you achieve lasting sobriety and rejuvenation. 

Alcohol and aging FAQ

Will I look younger if I stop drinking?

Just 6 to 12 months after quitting, most alcoholics’ skin looks significantly healthier and younger. This is because their skin is properly hydrated, less puffy and red, and there are fewer wrinkles and age spots. When you stop drinking for a significant period of time, your skin cells can rebound. Circulation also improves so the skin gets more nutrients and starts making collagen again. 

What does 20 years of drinking do to your body?

After two decades of hitting the bottle hard, your body takes a beating. Here’s what you may expect after twenty years of suffering from alcohol use disorder (AUD).

  • Your brain shrinks and loses significant function. There’s also a higher risk of developing dementia. 
  • You develop arrhythmias. Twenty years of drinking weakens the heart muscle fibers and electrical pathways that are critical for a steady heartbeat.
  • Your liver suffers greatly from alcohol’s toxic effects, which can lead to the development of alcoholic liver disease.
  • Your pancreas suffers from alcohol. Its harmful inflammatory response causes pancreatitis.
  • Your bones thin faster. Poor calcium absorption and reduced sex hormone levels can lead to the early onset of osteoporosis and other bone-related complications.
  • Your immunity is weakened, leaving you more susceptible to infection by viruses and bacteria. Heavy drinking forces the immune system and thymus gland to age quickly.
  • Skin, eyes, and arteries experience the effects of accelerated aging thanks to the accumulation of free radicals, inflammation, and collagen damage.

Does alcohol deplete zinc?

Binge drinking causes low zinc levels by disrupting its absorption from your digestive tract. Zinc is an essential dietary mineral that plays a key role in immune system function, neurological development, DNA synthesis, cell growth, vitamin absorption, skin health, and other vital metabolic processes.

As a diuretic, alcohol causes the increased excretion of zinc through more frequent urination. Extreme alcohol consumption habits also further deplete its levels as zinc is a major contributor to the metabolism of alcohol. 

Does alcohol destroy vitamin D?

While booze doesn’t completely trash vitamin D reserves, long-haul drinking does substantially slash “usable” vitamin D levels. Alcohol messes with the liver’s ability to convert vitamin D into its active form. It also blocks carrier proteins and disrupts kidney reabsorption. This results in critically low levels of vitamin D levels in the blood of heavy and moderate drinkers. 

Vitamin D deficiency leaves bones weaker, reduces immunity, affects mood, and damages heart health. Replenishing vitamin D levels requires abstinence from alcohol so your organs can efficiently process and circulate it. 

Can alcohol affect your balance permanently?

Years of heavy intoxication can permanently affect balance and coordination by damaging the delicate inner ear structure and nerve connections that help the body gauge positioning. Alcohol toxicity erodes the tiny hair cells of the vestibular balance system and cerebellar pathways that coordinate head and body orientation during movement. Destruction of these sensors throws off your balance, especially with your eyes closed or when walking in darkness. 

Physical therapy may help retrain balance using other cues, but once alcohol demolishes those vestibular hair cells and neurons, they’re gone for good along with your fine-tuned equilibrium. 

How does your body change after 6 months of no alcohol?

Just half of a year off the booze can have significant health benefits:

  • The liver bounces back. Inflammation reduces, so the liver can start working properly again.
  • Blood pressure improves.
  • Your mind clears up and new neurons can form.
  • Immunity rebounds.
  • Energy returns. 
  • Heart rate and blood pressure normalize as vessels relax.
  • Bone density and skin quality improve with better nutrient absorption and collagen production. 
  • Your booze-free body drops excess weight while gaining and regaining strength. 

Is it safe to consume a glass of wine regularly?

Moderate consumption of wine may have certain health benefits, such as cardiovascular improvements and antioxidant properties. However, it’s crucial to understand what constitutes drinking alcohol in moderation. According to health guidelines, moderate drinking is generally defined as up to one glass per day for women and up to two glasses per day for men. Excessive levels of alcohol consumption can lead to health risks, including addiction and liver damage.

How does blood alcohol concentration (BAC) affect the body?

BAC is a measure of the amounts of alcohol in the bloodstream. The effects of alcohol on the body depend on BAC levels. At low levels, it may cause relaxation and lowered inhibitions. However, as BAC increases, it can impair coordination and judgment, and lead to serious health issues. It’s important to be aware of your BAC and avoid activities such as driving when it’s elevated.

White et al. concluded that “changes in physiology during aging lead to higher BAC levels and bigger impairments in behavior and cognition.”

The rapid expansion of the population aged 65 and older, combined with higher alcohol consumption levels and AUD in the Baby Boomer cohort than the preceding generation, could significantly increase the burden of alcohol on the healthcare system resulting from AUD and alcohol-related injuries and diseases.

Can chronic alcohol abuse impact mental health?

Alcohol can affect mental health. While moderate drinking may have mood-enhancing effects, excessive or chronic alcohol consumption is linked to an increased risk of mood disorders, anxiety, and depression. It’s essential to practice mindful drinking and seek professional help if you notice any negative effects on your mental well-being.

How does alcohol consumption relate to the aging process?

Excessive levels of alcohol consumption can accelerate biological aging, affecting the skin and visible blood vessels and causing a wide range of skin conditions. It may contribute to conditions such as Arcus Senilis, which is a condition characterized by the presence of a gray or white ring around the cornea of the eye and is associated with aging. This age-related change in the eye is often caused by the deposition of lipids and cholesterol in the cornea. Alcohol misuse can have broader health implications, impacting the liver, cardiovascular health, and overall well-being. 


Alcohol Consumption Changes the Aging Clock. (2022, March 15). Yale School of Medicine. https://medicine.yale.edu/news-article/yale-study-alcohol-consumption-changes-the-aging-clock/

Goodman, G. D., Kaufman, J., Day, D., Weiss, R., Kawata, A. K., Garcia, J. K., Santangelo, S., & Gallagher, C. J. (2019). Impact of Smoking and Alcohol Use on Facial Aging in Women: Results of a Large Multinational, Multiracial, Cross-sectional Survey. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, 12(8), 28-39. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6715121/

Angebrandt, A., Abulseoud, O. A., Kisner, M., Diazgranados, N., Momenan, R., Yang, Y., Stein, E. A., & Ross, T. J. (2022). Dose-dependent relationship between social drinking and brain aging. Neurobiology of Aging, 111, 71. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2021.11.008

Sarkar, D., Jung, M. K., & Wang, H. J. (2015). Alcohol and the Immune System. Alcohol Research: Current Reviews, 37(2), 153-155. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4590612/

Bühler, K., Ángel, J., Giné, E., & Antonio, J. (2020). The Immune System through the Lens of Alcohol Intake and Gut Microbiota. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 22(14), 7485. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms22147485

Further reading

How long does alcohol detox last?

How many people in the United States suffer from alcoholism?

How do I know I have alcohol poisoning?

Is drinking bad for my teeth?

Is alcoholism a genetic disease?

What is a high-functioning alcoholic?

What pain is associated with withdrawal?

How can I help someone I love with their alcohol addiction?

Recognize the signs of alcoholism

How many glasses of wine are too much?

Can alcohol affect birth control?