Is it true that hangovers get worse the older you get? Here's what a doctor says.

Actually, yes (sorry)! As we age, we begin to produce less of the enzymes that help metabolize alcohol in the body. As a result, the by-products of booze that are responsible for causing hangover symptoms—headaches, dizziness, nausea—stick around in our system for longer. What’s more, the body also tends to lose muscle mass and accumulate fat as we get older. And the higher the percentage of body fat, the greater the effects of alcohol.

Another thing to consider here is tolerance. Most of us don’t drink as much at 45 as we did at 20. When we imbibe less frequently, our tolerance for alcohol goes down. In other words, a glass and a half of your favorite Pinot may have a much greater effect on you now than it did when you were in college.

All that said, an uncomfortable morning-after headache is a sign that you’re drinking more than you should be. Remember: It’s recommended that women keep intake to one alcoholic drink (like a 5-ounce glass of wine or 12-ounce beer) per day. Keep in mind that that figure isn’t meant to be used as a weekly average, so it’s not the same as staying sober all week and then knocking back seven drinks on Saturday night. If you are drinking more than one cocktail at a party, make sure to sip them slowly and have water in between each beverage. Doing this will help keep your blood alcohol level from spiking too fast, which can also intensify hangover symptoms.

Health’s medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is assistant professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine.

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