Researchers found that 17-year-olds who had smoked more than 100
cigarettes in their lifetime or who drank more than 10 drinks on a
typical drinking day had stiffer walls in their arteries.
In the long term, stiffer arteries can increase the risk for
cardiovascular events, dementia, and death.
"Injury to the blood vessels occurs very early in life as a result
of smoking and drinking and the two together are even more damaging,
Dr. Marietta Charakida, who carried out the research at UCL
Institute of Cardiovascular Science but is now at King's College
London, said in a statement.
As reported in the European Heart Journal and at a major cardiology
meeting, Charakida and colleagues analyzed data collected from 2004
to 2008 on 1,266 adolescents enrolled in the Avon Longitudinal Study
of Parents and Children. Participants reported their smoking and
drinking habits at ages 13, 15 and 17.
To assess the stiffness of the teens' artery walls, the researchers
used a noninvasive device to measure the speed at which a pulse from
the heart travels between the carotid artery in the neck and the
femoral artery in the leg.
That speed is called the pulse wave velocity. A slower velocity is a
good sign; it means the arterial walls are more elastic.
In 17-year-olds who had smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their
lifetime, the average pulse wave velocity was 3.7 percent faster
than in teens who had smoked less than 20 cigarettes.
Teenagers who tended to binge drink, or drink more than 10 drinks in
a typical drinking day with the aim of becoming drunk, had an
average pulse wave velocity that was 4.7 percent faster than kids
who drank no more than 2 drinks in a typical drinking day, the study
Furthermore, the authors report, the combination of binge-drinking
habits and smoking was linked to even greater arterial damage
compared to heavy drinking and smoking separately. In these kids,
the pulse wave velocity was 10.8 percent higher than in teens who
smoked less and didn't binge drink.
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But while smoking in youth was associated with increased arterial
stiffness, stopping during adolescence could restore arterial
health. Seventeen-year-olds who had smoked in the past but were not
current smokers had arterial health similar to never-smokers.
"Existing research suggests that regular binge drinking during the
teen years can damage the developing brain," Dr. Aaron White, a
senior scientific adviser at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse
and Alcoholism, told Reuters Health in an email.
"Findings from the current study suggest that the negative health
effects of alcohol during adolescence could extend to the
cardiovascular system," White said, adding that the findings are
consistent with existing evidence that even a single night of binge
drinking in adults can temporarily injure the heart.
An observational study like this one can only show associations; it
can't prove that smoking or alcohol exposure actually caused
arterial changes in these youngsters, the authors acknowledge. Also,
they note, the data were reported by the teenagers themselves and
might not always have been accurate.
Despite these limitations, they conclude, "Smoking exposure even at
low levels and intensity of alcohol use were associated individually
and together with increased arterial stiffness. Public health
strategies need to prevent adoption of these habits in adolescence
to preserve or restore arterial health."
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/2NXgXZV European Heart Journal, online August
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