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Binge Drinking in Your Twenties Could Elevate Risk for Cardiovascular Disease

Update Date: Apr 24, 2013 12:03 PM EDT

It is not just the cinnamon challenge that poses a long-term health risk to adolescents. Researchers have found that partying hard in college may put individuals at risk for heart problems like atherosclerosis, heart attacks and stroke, later on, the signs of which could appear as early as the twenties.

According to the Los Angeles Times, researchers recruited 38 urban college students for the study. They were split into two groups, with 17 classified as binge drinkers and 19 classified as abstainers. None of the students smoked cigarettes. In order to be put in the binge-drinking group, students needed to drink five or more servings of alcohol over the course of two hours, over six times a month, over the span of at least four years.

Everyday Health reports that the researchers administered a questionnaire about the students' drinking habits. They also tested the students twice in order to measure their blood alcohol levels, C-reactive protein, cholesterol, complete blood count, glucose and insulin levels. Finally, the researchers dilated the students' blood vessels with nitroglycerin, then used ultrasound imaging in order to analyze blood flow after restricting it and letting it flow freely.

Already among these young people, researchers found that the students' blood vessels were less able to dilate and were less elastic. Those symptoms could be an advanced warning of a condition like atherosclerosis, or the hardening of the blood vessels, or blood vessel damage.

"The researchers saw a signal for vasoconstriction [when blood vessels constrict] in the binge drinkers even after they stopped binge drinking, and were measured three to four days after binge drinking," Dr. Robert Vogel, a professor of medicine at the University of Colorado, Denver said in an accompanying editorial, according to Health Day.

The study is only the latest to find that heavy drinking does not just put people at risk for hangovers, but also for cardiovascular problems.

Of course, young adults do not simply put themselves at risk for cardiovascular disease with alcohol. Drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine also pose a risk for heart damage, as well as general inactivity.

The study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

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