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One Weekend of Binge-Drinking Can Have Lifelong Consequences
Youths who drink heavily in college may think they are just having fun. They may wind up doing something embarrassing, they may feel hungover the next day but they usually go ahead and continue to drink too much. College students rarely connect their heavy drinking with poor grades or problem relationships. Youth is worn like a protective shield. But poor drinking choices in youth have negative consequences that may not show up until later in life.
Binge drinking, which is five or more drinks in a row for a man and four or more drinks in a row for a woman, creates physiological stresses and changes that can increase their risk of heart and circulation problems later in life. The dangers of binge drinking at college are serious enough for cardiologists to speak out about it in their own professional publications.
According to one of those professional journals, binging presents one of the greatest health risks on university campuses. Studies have shown that 18 to 25 year olds practice binging more than any other age group. Roughly one-half of all college students binge drink on a regular basis.
Health professionals are aware of the significant health risks to middle-aged adults caused by binge drinking. Binging can lead to stroke, heart attack and even sudden cardiac demise. Even though college students represent the greatest segment of binge drinkers, little or no research had been performed to examine the effects on binging on younger subjects.
A recent University of Illinois at Chicago study took a close look at how binge drinking impacts the health of college co-eds. That study took college kids who were healthy, non-smokers and divided them into two groups: binge drinkers and non-drinkers. Binge drinking was defined as five or more drinks within two hours for men and four or more drinks in two hours for women. Non-drinkers had consumed five or fewer drinks over the last year. The kids in the binge group reported drinking heavily about six times per month.
The researchers found that young adults who engaged in binge drinking showed vascular impairments that looked like a person who drinks heavily every day. The tissue changes can trigger heart attack, stroke and/or hardening of the arteries. In other words, a person’s drinking pattern (binging) is just as damaging as the amount of alcohol the person may consume.
Young adults who binge in college are risking much more than a headache and bad grades. They are putting their long-term health at risk. They can do as much damage in out-of-control weekend drinking through college as an adult creates over a lifetime of heavy drinking. And no one is sure if the ill-effects are reversible.