LONDON — There are a lot of reasons why heavy drinking is not suggested — from the toll on mental health to the risk of alcoholism and the dangers posed to others — but now a new study finds that engaging in frequent benders could prematurely damage the arteries, which could significantly raise the risk of heart disease.
Researchers in the United Kingdom studied a group of participants over the course of 25 years. The sample group ranged in age from 30 to 50, and none of them had a history of heart disease. Alcohol intake of the subjects was recorded during the course of the study and “pulse wave” technology was used to measure arteries in the neck and thigh.
They found that the people who drank heavily throughout the study were more likely to experience arterial stiffness than the people who were moderate drinkers. The stiffer an artery becomes, the less blood flow can pass through.
“It’s been suggested alcohol intake may increase high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels — the good cholesterol — or decrease platelet stickiness. Conversely, heavier alcohol intake may activate certain enzymes that would lead to collagen accumulation, which could in turn exacerbate the rate of arterial stiffening,” says Darragh O’Neill, Ph.D., lead author of the study and epidemiological researcher at University College London, in an AHA release.
For the sake of this study, heavy drinking was classified as 14 units a week. Each unit is roughly one serving, so half a pint of beer or half a glass of wine would count. Moderate drinking was classified as anything less than that.
The American Heart Association suggests that women stick to one drink per day, while men can handle one to two. Anything more than that can contribute to physical and mental health issues as well as increase the likelihood of having accidents.
It’s important to note that some of the people in the study were smokers, and about 70 percent of them did not get the proper amount of exercise, so it’s possible that other factors could be taken into account. Moderate drinking is suggested in many studies as part of a healthy lifestyle that includes healthy eating and daily exercise.
The findings were published last month in the Journal of the American Heart Association.