Friday, June 16, 2006

Heart attacks follow weekend binge

UK medical researchers have suggested that weekend binge drinking may be linked to a peak in deaths from heart attacks on Mondays.

A letter to the British Medical Journal from Lauren Chenet and Annie Britton of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said alcohol, particularly when consumed in a binge, acts as a trigger for heart attack.

"The Monday peak in cardiovascular mortality and morbidity has been documented in various settings," they write.

Studies that look at the pattern of drinking, either directly or indirectly, have consistently found an increased risk of cardiovascular death (particularly sudden death) with binge drinking.

In countries such as the former Soviet Union and Scotland, the Monday peak is pronounced and is accompanied by slight increases in mortality on Saturdays and Sundays.

Physiological studies suggest moderate drinking (between seven and 14 drinks per week) has a protective affect on the heart possibly through boosting high density lipoproteins ('good' cholesterol) and reducing the risk of blood clots.

Binge drinking, on the other hand, appears to cause dehydration and may actually promote clotting after heavy drinking stops.

Binge drinking also changes heart rhythms, increases blood pressure and may damage the lining of blood vessels and the heart muscle which is especially sensitive during withdrawal.

Australian cardiovascular expert, Professor Lawrence Beilin from the University of Western Australia, said he was not aware of any similar Australian studies.

He said, however, the argument put forward by Chenet and Britton was plausible and he suspects the same situation exists here.

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