Heavy drinking can destroy heart health

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: August 7th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

From that “Animal House”-inspired toga party you hosted in college to one too many happy hour cocktails after work, it’s no secret excessive drinking is unhealthy at any age.

But now there’s even more evidence that heavy drinking throughout your lifetime can damage your heart, especially if you’re a woman, or a college student.

Research presented at the American Society of Hypertension reveals women who have more than fourteen drinks per week are more likely to develop enlarged hearts, posing a greater risk for heart attack or stroke.

Researchers studied two-hundred middle-aged men and women and grouped them into three categories: nondrinkers, moderate drinkers and heavy drinkers.

Twenty percent of women were considered heavy drinkers and showed cardiovascular risk factors like an enlarged heart.

Men who were the heaviest drinkers had high blood pressure and stiffening of the arteries.

But college co-eds with beer bellies also beware.

Research from the American Heart Association suggests that college students who are heavy drinkers can double levels of C-reactive protein [C-R-P] in their bodies. The protein is a biological marker for inflammation that are associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular problems like heart attack and hardening of the arteries.

Although C-R-P may indicate cardiovascular problems, levels can also fluctuate with the common cold, smoking or having diabetes.

More long-term studies are needed to explore this relationship and to further identify if heavy drinking in college can set you up for poor heart health later in life.