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Archive for November, 2010

Binge Drinking Doubles Risk of Heart Disease

Numerous studies have shown that a moderate amount of alcohol consumption can be beneficial to heart health. But how much is too much? A study published in the British Medical Journal earlier this week suggests that frequent binge drinking can nearly double the risk of heart attack or dying from heart disease.

The study compared the drinking patterns of healthy, middle-aged men in Belfast, Northern Ireland with those in various regions throughout France. While the two groups were found to drink roughly the same volume of alcohol per week, the researchers observed that the men in Belfast tended to do the majority of their drinking on the weekend, whereas the French spread their alcohol consumption more evenly throughout the week.

Led by Dr. Jean-Bernard Ruidavets from Toulouse University, the researchers followed a little under 10,000 men between the ages of 50 and 59 for a total of ten years. What they found was that the men who binge drink frequently (meaning roughly 4-5 drinks in one day, with one drink being equal to about half a pint of beer) had almost twice the risk of heart attack and death by heart disease compared to the men who drank a moderate amount of alcohol on a regular basis. The researchers believe this may explain why heart disease is so much more prevalent in Belfast than in France, despite similar overall alcohol consumption levels.

So, how is it that a little bit of alcohol can be beneficial, but a lot can be deadly? It is believed that moderate alcohol consumption can protect against heart disease by reducing plaque in the arteries, raising good cholesterol and reducing the risk of blood clots. All of these can reduce the risk of heart attack and heart disease. However, alcohol is still a toxic substance, and drinking too much alcohol in one day can be harmful. Doing so consistently over long periods of time can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, congestive heart failure and high triglyceride levels—all of which actually increase the risk of heart attack!

How much is “too much” can vary from person to person, depending on gender, size, age and other factors. The best way to avoid the negative consequences of alcohol is to avoid it altogether! Any heart doctor will tell you that, while alcohol consumption is fine in moderation and may even reduce the risk of heart disease, it is still far safer and more effective to simply eat right and get regular exercise!