Binge Drinking May Cause Heart Problems

By: Autria Godfrey Email
By: Autria Godfrey Email

May 9, 2007

"If you define binge drinking as drinking a lot in a short period of time with the intention of getting drunk, then yeah, I guess most people I know are binge drinkers," said second year UVa student Walter Rick.

A college rite of passage? A way to relieve a little stress? Whatever the reason, the number of college students downing excessive amounts of alcohol is on the rise, and with it, their chances of heart problems.

"Binge drinking is a problem," said Dr. William Hammill, Martha Jefferson Hospital Cardiac Director and a UVa professor. "We know it's a problem and its just not healthy for lots of organs in your body, your heart, your liver, your kidneys."

New research by the American Heart Association links binge drinking with a protein associated with cardiovascular problems that may surface years after that last binge drinking blackout.

"We want them to have a good time but make good decisions along the way, because it is going to affect them for the next 40 to 50 years," said Hammill.

But are possible midlife health problems enough to break the invincible mindset of partygoers?

"My hearts still pumping, still beating, still going strong, so I'm not too worried," said third year UVa student Andrew Eckman.

Though more tests are needed, the results may not be reversible.

"We like to think just like smoking you see a lot of reversal of things if you stop that behavior, but right now, we just don't know the answer," said Hammill.

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