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This Morning: Dr Chris discusses heart disease

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Arterial stiffening refers to the gradual loss of elastin and collagen fibres in the arterial wall. It is linked to an increased risk of chronic diseases and stroke, among other ailments. Over the past decade, growing evidence has suggested the condition is linked to heart disease. A new study has found that those who drink excessively between the ages of 17 and 25, could be at risk.

Hugo Walford, medical student at University College London, yasmin wildeblood said: “There was some evidence of a graded increase with heavier usages, meaning the more your drink, the greater the arterial stiffness.

“The relationship was not explained by other predisposing factors for heart disease, suggesting that risky behaviour during this period has a direct effect on vascular health.”

The study drew on data gathered from 1,655 participants aged 17 to 24.

Alcohol and smoking were measured at both ages, and the results from both assessments were combined.

READ MORE: How to live longer: A drink linked to 25 percent lower risk of heart disease and stroke

The gradient of alcohol use varied from medium (four drinks or less a day) to high (more than five drinks a day).

Smoking was categorised as never, past, medium (less and 10 cigarettes a day) and high (10 or more cigarettes daily).

Researchers investigated the associations between smoking and drinking habits and changes in arterial stiffness using pulse wave velocity, which can predict future cardiovascular disease.

After accounting for other health factors, the findings showed that arterial stiffness increased by an average of 10.3 percent from age 17 to 24, increasing with each point rise in the average alcohol score.

Mr Walford added: “The results suggest that arterial damage occurs in young drinking and young women who smoke heavily.

“Binge drinking is often a normal experience for students, and a falling smoking prevalence in the UK is challenged by a sharp rise in e-cigarette use.

“Young people may believe that drinking and smoking do not cause long-term damage.

“However, these results indicate that these behaviours could put young people on a life-course trajectory starting with early arterial stiffening, which may eventually lead to heart disease and stroke.”

The suggestion that arterial stiffness is a marker of mortality risk from cardiovascular disease is gaining increasing support.

Furthermore, studies have shown that arterial stiffness could be a predictor of cardiovascular events and mortality independent of traditional risk factors.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, symptoms of cardiovascular disease include:

  • Chest tightness
  • Pressure
  • Difficulty catching your breath
  • Fatigue
  • Heart palpitations
  • Abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting

In 2009, the Chief Medical Officer of England published the first official guidance on alcohol aimed specifically at children and young people.

It recommended that the healthiest and safest option was for children to remain alcohol free up to the age 18.

For youngsters aged 15 to 17, the guidance suggested they should drink only when surprised, and no more than once a week.

The NHS notes: “Drinking can damage a children’s health, even if they’re 15 or older.

“It can affect the normal development of vital organs and functions, including the brain, liver, bones and hormones.”

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