June 27 (UPI) -- Young adults who binge drink alcohol are more likely to face risks to their cardiovascular health than those who don't imbibe, according to a new study.
Researchers studied the effects of frequent binge drinking -- defined as five drinks or more in a row for men and four or more in a row for women per occasion within the past 30 days -- among adults between age 18 and 45. One drink is considered 12 ounces of beer or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits.
The risks of binge drinking include high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar that can lead to heart attacks, cardiovascular disease and stroke.
While previous research has explored the link between frequent binge drinking and cardiovascular risk in middle-aged and older adults, the risks for younger adults have not been studied as much.
"Compared to previous generations, the pervasiveness, intensity [number of drinks] and regularity [several times per week] of binge drinking may place today's young adult at greater risk for more profound rates of alcohol-attributable harm," lead author Dr. Mariann Piano, a senior associate dean for Research at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, said in an AHA press release. "Young adults need to be aware that the consequences of repeated binge drinking may harm their hearts. The risk extends beyond poor school performance and increased risk for accidental injury."
For the study, published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers analyzed the responses of 4,710 adult men and women to the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in 2011-12 and 2013-14.
Just over one-quarter of men and 12 percent of women reported binge drinking more than 12 times a year, while 29 percent of men and 25 percent of women said they binged between one and 12 times per year.
Young men who reported binge drinking had higher systolic blood pressure -- 122 systolic for frequent drinkers and 119 for moderate -- than non-binge drinkers at 118. For women the data were similar for each of the categories -- around 112.
Young women who said they binge drink frequently had higher cholesterol levels -- 210 mg/dL -- than moderate and non-binge drinking women, both of whom were at 207. For men's cholesterol levels -- it was higher among those who had less binge drinking, at 218 -- compared with frequent binging at 218 and abstainers at 208.
Young women who said they binge drink at least once had higher levels of blood sugar -- 102 mg/dL -- than non-binge drinking women at 97. For men, the glucose levels were higher for abstainers at 105, compared with 103 for high levels and 101 for lower ones.
"Implementing lifestyle interventions to reduce blood pressure in early adulthood may be an important strategy to prevent cardiovascular disease later in life," Piano said. "Young adults should be screened and counseled about alcohol misuse, including binge drinking, and advised on how binge drinking may affect their cardiovascular health."
The American Heart Association recommends moderate consumption of alcohol, which it defines as an average of one to two drinks per day for men and one per day for women.