Among binge-drinking young adults, investigators found that systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) is 2.6 to 4 points higher compared to those who don’t binge. This is enough to put some in the early stages of high blood pressure, said senior researcher Jennifer O’Loughlin.
“Our findings show that more than one in four young adults who binge drink meet the criterion for prehypertension,” she said.
“This is worrisome because this condition can progress to hypertension, which in turn can cause heart disease and premature death,” explained O’Loughlin. She is a professor of social and preventive medicine at the University of Montreal.
Binge drinking is defined as five or more alcoholic beverages consumed on a single occasion. Previous studies in Canada and the United States have shown that about four in 10 young adults aged 18 to 24 are frequent binge drinkers, the researchers said in background notes.
Typical blood pressure among young adults is around 104 systolic, which represents the pressure in arteries when the heart beats, O’Loughlin said.
Prehypertension — the warning stage of high blood pressure — is 120 to 139 systolic. People with 140 systolic or more have full-fledged high blood pressure.
The researchers drew their data from an ongoing Canadian study on nicotine dependence, which also asked questions about drinking habits at age 20 and 24, and measured blood pressure at age 24.
The research team compared 756 participants, looking at whether binge drinking at age 20 and 24 affected their blood pressure by age 24.
Compared to non-binge drinkers, systolic blood pressure at age 24 was 2.6 points higher among those who continued to binge drink on a monthly basis, and 4 points higher among those who had a binge-drinking episode every week, the study found.
– Dennis Thompson