Risk of Heart Disease During College Age over Heavy vs. Moderate Alcohol Drinking

Risk of Heart Disease During College Age over Heavy vs. Moderate Alcohol Drinkin

Alcohol-related death and disability impact is substantial. The harmful effects of alcohol use on health and the possibility of developing
dependence have been recognized as issues of great concern for a long time. New evidence underscores the need to recognize alcohol use as one of the risk factors for many communicable and noncommunicable diseases as well as for accidents, injuries domestic and social violence. There is also growing emphasis on different patterns of drinking influencing the type of outcomes, e.g. long-term, high quantity drinking causing liver damage, while acute intoxication (binge drinking) is linked to accidents and injuries.

Many of us believe that risky drinking and addiction can't happen to us, but it can,The positive outcomes result when people are willing to speak up and care about themselves and others. In this way, lives, careers, and patients are protectedAlcohol can alter blood sugar levels and exacerbate diabetes; impair reproductive functions; and interfere with calcium metabolism and bone structure, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. Researchers have identified no safe threshold for drinking during pregnancy.

Heavy drinking has been known for centuries to be a health hazard and cause of death. Efforts to quantify the disease burden associated with different risk factors clearly demonstrate that hazardous and harmful alcohol drinking is one of the leading risk factors and is responsible for 4% of the global disease burden."Heavy drinking raises the risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, certain cancers, car crashes, unintentional injuries, violence, suicides, birth defects and overall mortality.

Drinkers in the highest category of intensity have a 60 percent greater risk of developing metabolic syndrome than those in the lowest category.The metabolic syndrome is a cluster of cardiovascular disease risk factors which include high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides, low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), impaired fasting glucose and excess abdominal fat.

On the other hand moderate consumption of alcohol provides protection against ischemic stroke.In various studies, the categories associated with the lowest risk of ischemic stroke were 1 to 150 g per week, 1 to 33 g per day, 1 to 10 units per week,18 two drinks per day, and consumption of alcohol less than once a day.The reports of a protective effect of drinking with respect to cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease were criticized, since most of the studies compared alcohol drinkers with nondrinkers.

The researchers found that a light intake of alcohol (on average less than one glass per day) was associated with a lower rate of cardiovascular death and death from all causes. When compared to spirits and beer, consumption of small amounts of wine, about a half a glass a day, was associated with the lowest levels of all-cause and cardiovascular deaths.

People commonly think of drinking in college and, in particular heavy drinking, as a rite of passage implying that well, one is entitled to do it; it's common, in fact perhaps everyone does it. And it's a set of experiences that if one has not had them, then one will be missing out on something. . It's certainly an issue for anyone who has children in that age range, and it's certainly an issue also for the people themselves who are going through this experience.Teens and college-age young people have an unshakable conviction that nothing bad can happen to them -- that bad things only happen to other people.

One in four children under 18 are exposed to family alcohol problems. According to NIAAA, these children are four times more likely than others to develop alcoholism in later life.Normally, your body can eliminate the alcohol from a 12-ounce can of beer in about an hour. If you drink more alcohol than you can eliminate, your blood alcohol level goes up. Drinking several beers in an hour will increase your blood alcohol level much more than if you had one beer during the same period. Also, your blood alcohol level can continue to rise even after you stop drinking.

Heavy drinking during the college years takes it toll on the heart, research suggests.

In a new study, college students who regularly drank to excess had above-normal levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a blood marker for systemic inflammation long linked to cardiovascular illness.

But the news was not all bad. Moderate drinkers actually had lower, healthier CRP readings than those who drank little or no alcohol, the study found.

"In a sense, I was surprised," said study co-author Elizabeth Donovan, an undergraduate biology and nutrition science major at the College of Saint Benedict (CSB) in St. Joseph, Mich.

"Although in older people high C-reactive protein levels are associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, I wasn't so sure this would apply to a younger population," she noted. "But if C-reactive protein levels are predictive of future risk for cardiovascular disease twenty or thirty years down the road, then it appears college-age individuals may be beginning this dangerous pattern -- which is a clear reason to be concerned about heavy drinking."

Donovan conducted her research with faculty advisor and co-author Amy Olsen, a professor of nutrition. They are presenting their findings in Chicago this week at the American Heart Association's Conference on Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), CRP levels rise when body-wide inflammation kicks in following an injury or infection. Inflammation is thought to play a critical role in atherosclerosis, the build-up of fatty deposits on the lining of the arteries.

Although the exact link, if any, between high CRP levels and heart disease remains unclear, an AHA review of recent studies suggests that patients with elevated CRP are more likely to suffer an initial or recurrent heart attack or stroke. They are also less likely to survive these attacks. As well, high CRP levels raise the risk that arteries will close back up following surgical intervention.

Using AHA standards for assessing CRP-associated risk, Donovan and Olson defined low risk for cardiovascular disease as having less than one milligram of CRP per liter of blood. A CRP level of between one and three milligrams was interpreted as bearing moderate risk, while anything above three milligrams was equated with high risk.

The researchers then asked 25 college-age men and women to complete surveys concerning their drinking habits, smoking habits, medication use, and recent weight loss -- behaviors which can affect CRP levels.

The students were then categorized into one of three groups: non-drinkers (consumed one or less drinks per week); moderate drinkers, (two to five drinks a day over the course of one or two days per week); and heavy drinkers, (three or more drinks a day, at least three days a week). Heavy drinkers also included people who binge-drank, consuming five or more drinks at one time, at least two or more days per week.

Blood tests revealed that, overall, the students were at low risk of heart disease, with an average CRP of 0.9 milligrams per liter of blood.

However, heavy drinkers had a CRP average of 1.25 mg, suggesting they were at moderate risk for future heart disease.

On the other end of the scale, moderate drinkers fell into the low-risk group, with CRP averaging just 0.58 milligrams/liter.

Infrequent drinkers and non-drinkers were in the middle, with an average CRP of 0.85 milligrams/liter.

Overweight male students and male and female students with a family history of heart disease had higher CRP readings. Students who ate relatively high levels of fruits and vegetables had lower CRP levels than those who did not, the researchers found.

Donovan's team emphasized that any link between heavy drinking in youth and long-range cardiovascular risk needs further corroboration.

"I don't think this study is enough to say for sure whether cardiovascular disease risk goes up for young people who drink heavily," Donovan cautioned. She noted that the relatively small study did not track student health over a long period of time but rather relied exclusively on a self-report of current drinking habits.

One expert expressed little surprise at the study findings.

"During flu season, we know heart attacks peak, because plaque is already sitting there, quietly, until inflammation sets in," noted Dr. Karol Watson, an assistant professor of cardiology and co-director of the Program in Preventive Cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles. "So here, alcohol also gets thrown in as one of many acute 'insults' to our bodies which can provoke inflammation."

"Raising C-reactive protein is definitely not a good thing," added Watson. "And if you have arteriosclerotic plaque, any inflammation -- any acute elevation of C-reactive protein -- can destabilize the situation enough so you could have a heart attack or stroke. Of course, because this study was done with young, healthy people, it's unlikely any of them have underlying vascular disease. But you never know that for sure."


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