Binge Drinking May Put Young People at Risk for Heart Disease

News Release


[Writer] This is research news from UIC, the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Today, Shane Phillips, associate professor of kinesiology and nutrition, talks about his recent study showing that college students who binge drink have the same type of impaired heart circulation seen in individuals with heart disease, putting these young people at risk for heart attack and stroke.

Here’s Professor Phillips speaking about the study published in the American Journal of Cardiology.

[Shane Phillips] We found that in the large blood vessels, that their brachial artery flow-mediated dilator were reduced, as well as their responses to nitroglycerin compared to individuals who weren’t drinking, who were abstaining from alcohol.

Q. What do those responses mean?

[SP] The brachial artery FMD response, which is measured with a standard ultrasound technique, is thought to be prognostic of early cardiovascular disease if there is an impairment. Even though these individuals are young and healthy and don’t have any other overt cardiovascular signs of disease, these data would suggest that maybe they are on the road to developing that.

Q. What did you find out about how the smaller blood vessels work?

[SP] It was interesting, in the small blood vessels we found that they had fairly typical vasodilator responses to endothelial-dependent stimuli — acetylcholine is what we used — but that the mechanisms tended to be different than what we found in the abstainers. So that there didn’t seem to be a nitric oxide dependence to those responses. And this is similar to what we find in some of our diseased populations in the small blood vessels that have more overt cardiovascular disease — that maybe there is a compensatory mechanism that has developed.

Q. The operation of the small blood vessels also looks like a diseased population?

[SP] Right. Yeah, it looks like there’s something different going on than what is normal, when you compare that to the abstainers.

Q. What are the long-term risks associated with these signs?

[SP] Well, we don’t know exactly in binge-drinkers what the long-term risks are when we have endothelial dysfunction and other impaired vasodilatory patterns, but it tends to suggest that these individuals who don’t have overt cardiovascular disease are at risk over the long term, being at a higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease.

Q. Based on your study, what would you advise people about binge drinking, and why?

[SP] It’s hard to come up with a specific recommendation based on these data and these studies, but our recruitment criteria for binge drinking was five or more drinks over a two-hour period in men and four more drinks over a two-hour period in women. So that suggests that this pattern over a long term might increase cardiovascular risk in someone that doesn’t have a cardiovascular disease. We don’t know exactly how that might compare to more moderate patterns of drinking. But that’s something that we are interested in looking at comparing.

Q. The subjects of these studies — they did not have other cardiovascular disease?

[SP] That’s right. Their blood pressure was normal. Their cholesterol levels were normal. And they didn’t have diabetes or other risk factors.

[Writer] Shane Phillips is an associate professor in kinesiology and nutrition at the UIC College of Applied Health sciences.

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This has been research news from UIC, the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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