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A Night of Binge-Drinking Messes with Your Health for a Whole Week

Your risk of stroke and heart attack surge after a night of heavy drinking, but sipping on booze in moderation might actually have the opposite effect.

Just when we find out that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol regularly can be good for the heart, a new dispatch from the world of science is here to complicate the relationship between drinking and cardiovascular health.

A new study in the journal Circulation found that binge drinking six or more drinks in a night may increase risk for stroke and heart attacks for the following week, but drinking two to four drinks in a night can actually lower the risk for the same events over the next week. The risks to heart health seesaw up and down depending how much you drink and the amount of time elapsed since drinking.


"Heavy drinking increases risk both in the short term and the long term, but drinking smaller amounts has different effects in the subsequent hours than it does in the subsequent days and weeks," said Elizabeth Mostofsky, the review's lead researcher and an instructor at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Mostofsky and her colleagues analyzed 23 studies that followed nearly 30,000 participants over the course of 28 years to come to their conclusions. Their survey focused on heart health in the immediate aftermath of drinking, and their findings show that the risks and benefits of drinking change on a day-to-day and even hourly basis.

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After 24 hours, consuming two to four drinks led to a 30 percent reduced risk of stroke and heart attack for the course of the subsequent week, similar to the long-term benefits of moderate drinking. For those who drank six or more drinks, their risk rose by 30 percent. To make things even more confusing, those who drank nothing at all were at greater risk for heart problems and stroke over the next week than those who drank two to four drinks.

But in the first 24 hours after taking that first sip, consuming even one drink led to increased odds of cardiovascular problems.

The confusing timeline is due to the fact that moderate amounts of alcohol can actually improve blood flow after it has been in your system for 12 hours. A little bit of alcohol can increase levels of "good" cholesterol and reduce blood clotting.

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While the health benefits of moderate consumption varied over a short frame of time, the researchers told Reuters that heavy drinking was never a good idea. Hard boozing leads to higher risk of hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and death following a heart attack.

Once again, the takeaway is an unsolicited reminder to not get blasted all the time.