*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on ScienceDaily.
Drinking alcohol during adolescence to young adulthood is associated with accelerated arterial stiffening, a precursor to cardiovascular disease. That’s the finding of a study presented at ESC Congress 2021.
“There was some evidence of a graded increase with heavier usage, meaning that the more you drink, the greater the increase in arterial stiffness,” said study author Mr. Hugo Walford, a medical student at University College London, UK. “The relationship was not explained by other predisposing factors for heart disease, suggesting that risky behavior during this period has a direct effect on vascular health.”
As people get older, their arteries naturally become stiffer and less elastic. Stiffer arteries are associated with higher risks of heart disease and stroke. Certain behaviors can accelerate arterial stiffening. For example, previous research has shown that smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol are linked with stiffer arteries in teenagers.
As young adulthood is a critical period for initiation and heavy usage of smoking and alcohol, this study focused on changes in arterial stiffness between the ages of 17 and 24 and the relationship with these habits.
The study included 1,655 participants of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents And Children (ALSPAC) aged 17 to 24 years. Alcohol and smoking were measured at ages 17 and 24 and results at the two time points were combined.
Researchers found that arterial stiffness increased by an average of 10.3% from age 17 to 24, with a slightly greater increase observed in women than in men. Arterial stiffness increased with each point rise in the average alcohol score. No graded increase in arterial stiffness was seen with the average smoking score. While high-intensity smokers had a numerically greater increase in arterial stiffness than never smokers, this only reached statistical significance in women. Changes in arterial stiffness between ages 17 and 24 did not differ between ex-smokers and never smokers.
Mr. Walford said: “The results suggest that arterial damage occurs in young drinkers and young women who smoke heavily. Never smokers and ex-smokers had similar alterations in arterial stiffness, indicating that quitting can restore vascular health at this young age.”