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Heavy Drinking Linked With Increased Risk of Cardiometabolic Risk Factors

Hazardous (binge) drinking is the practice of consuming large quantities of alcohol in a single session, usually defined as five or more drinks at one time for a man, or four or more drinks at one time for a woman. A recent study suggests that hazardous drinking over a lifetime increases the risk of higher blood pressure, larger waist circumference, and stroke.

Participants in the study included 4,820 adults with an average age of 69 who took part in the Whitehall II cohort study. The researchers used the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test for Consumption to assess alcohol use. Participants completed the test retrospectively for each decade of their life. They were classified as never hazardous drinker, former early hazardous drinker (stopped before age 50), former later hazardous drinking (stopped at age 50 or after), current hazardous drinker, or consistent hazardous drinker (hazardous drinker during every decade of their life).

The researchers found that former later, current, and consistent hazardous drinkers had higher systolic blood pressure and poorer liver function than never hazardous drinkers. Current hazardous drinkers had systolic blood pressure that was 2.44 mmHG higher than never hazardous drinkers. They also had elevated levels of gamma-glutamyl transferase, which is a marker of liver disease.

In addition, current hazardous drinkers had a three times increased risk of stroke compared to never hazardous drinkers. Former later hazardous drinkers had a two times higher risk of non-cardiovascular disease mortality compared to never hazardous drinkers.

Hazardous drinking was also associated with a larger waist circumference. Former later hazardous drinkers, current hazardous drinkers and consistent hazardous drinkers had a waist circumference that was .5 inches, 1 inch and 1.5 inches larger respectively compared to never hazardous drinkers.

The study was conducted by researchers from University College London. It was published on March 31, 2020 in the journal Addiction.

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