Previous studies have shown that binge drinking is a common problem in both Canada and the U.S., with around four out of ten young adults aged 18 to 24 frequently taking part in the practice, defined as drinking five or more alcoholic beverages in less than two hours.
To study its dangers further, a team of researchers from the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM) recruited 756 participants from the Nicotine Dependence in Teens study, which has been collecting data on 1294 young people from diverse social backgrounds in Montreal, Canada since 1999.
The team first collected data on participants' alcohol consumption at age 20, before doing a follow-up four years later where they also collected measurements on participants' systolic blood pressure, which measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart muscle is contracting. A systolic blood pressure of over 140 millimeters of mercury indicates high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.
After analyzing their data the team found that more than one in four of the participants who took part in binge-drinking met the criterion for pre-hypertension -- a systolic blood pressure between 120 and 139 millimeters of mercury, "worrisome because this condition can progress to hypertension, which in turn can cause heart disease and premature death," commented the study's lead author Jennifer O'Loughlin.
The team also found that 85 per cent of those who drank heavily at age 20 continued to do so at age 24, with the researchers now planning on continuing their research to look at binge drinking patterns and its effects on high blood pressure at age 30, believing that binge drinking may become a less frequent occurrence as the participants get older.
O'Loughlin now recommends that health practitioners start asking young adults about their alcohol consumption in order to help prevent the negative effects of binge drinking on blood pressure.
The findings were published on Friday in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
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