College Binge Drinking Raises Heart Disease Risk, Study Finds

A new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology has shown that binge drinking, especially in college students known to drink more heavily than their older counterparts, can lead to heart disease.

“Alcohol can be directly toxic to the heart and lead to weakening of the heart muscle and heart failure,” said William Abraham, MD, director of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at The Ohio State University Medical Center. “Toxic manifestations take a while to show up in heart detection, but can be serious enough to require heart transplant.”

The study tested 38 healthy college students, 17 binge drinkers and 19 non-binge drinkers. The participants were monitored during two binge drinking episodes. The study included cardiac imaging and questionnaires as well as tests for cholesterol, insulin, glucose, complete blood count, C-reactive protein and blood alcohol count. Binge drinkers had impaired blood flow that was comparable to people with a history of heavy drinking.

Dr. Abraham warned that although young adults may be harming their hearts with binge drinking, other risky behaviors and an unhealthy lifestyle play a role too.

“Illicit drug use has consequences for the heart. Cocaine, amphetamines, and stimulants can lead to heart attack or heart failure,” Abraham said. “[But] one of the major issues today is teenager inactivity. Fewer teens are being active, and are spending more on computers, social media, and video games. Inactivity has a long-term impact on heart health.”

Abraham also attributed short- and long-term heart problems to dietary habits.

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