College binge drinking linked to heart disease
Suffering a few hangovers may have been the least of the impact of binge drinking in college. Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago have found that regularly consuming five drinks or more in a two-hour window – binge drinking – could lead to an increased risk of heart disease later in life. The research indicates that, even in an otherwise healthy young adult, binge drinking can cause immediate changes in circulation that could increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease years down the road.
While binge drinking has previously been associated with an increased risk of stroke and heart attack, those studies took place in drinkers aged 40 to 60 years old. In the Chicago study, scientists looked at two groups of healthy nonsmoking college students: those who were binge drinkers and those who abstained from alcohol. On average, the students who were considered binge drinkers drank excessively four times per month for four years. Abstainers were defined as those who consumed no more than five drinks in the prior year.
Students were questioned about medical history, diet, family history of alcohol abuse and frequency of alcohol consumption. The study found that the boozers had impaired function in two cell types - endothelial and smooth muscle cells – that control blood flow. This impairment could serve as a precursor for the cardiac condition atherosclerosis, heart attack and stroke.