Binge Drinking May Increase Cardiovascular Risk in Young Adults

By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.

For many students, college and drinking go hand-in-hand. And not just drinking, but intense, out-of-your mind binge drinking. Although moderate drinking has a heart-protective effect, researchers at the University of Illinois/Chicago have uncovered evidence for the first time that binge drinking is harmful to blood vessel functioning, and may ultimately increase cardiovascular risk.

In a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the investigators compared 19 binge drinkers with 17 alcohol abstainers, all university students. Binge drinking was described as downing more than five regular drinks for men and four for women inside a two-hour period in the previous two weeks. The bingers actually averaged six such interludes in the previous month, a behavior pattern that had gone on for about four years on average.

The researchers, who tested arterial function in the students within several days after a last binge, determined there was alterations in the functioning of the sensitive inner linings of arteries among the heavy drinkers, specifically lower dilation and a trend towards higher blood pressure. They concluded, “alterations in the macrocirculation and microcirculation may represent early clinical manifestations of cardiovascular risk in otherwise healthy young [binge drinkers].”

Access the study here.

My Viewpoint: Moderate alcohol consumption – think a bit of red wine – is linked to a lowered risk for heart disease. But excess alcohol is very problematic, and, among things, can lead to high blood pressure and arrhythmias. The razor-thin lining of arteries is extremely sensitive. This is not cardiovascular turf you want to compromise. The results suggested that in contrast to regular and moderate consumption, binge drinking may set the stage for future vascular disease.

 What This Means to You: Another example of “all things in moderation.”

 Recommendation: If you do binge, don’t. Make your drinks last so you drink less. If you have kids in college, share this bit of news. It may not change anything, but at least you will have put the idea into their heads.

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