Drinking in early age still causes arterial damage

Sometimes we put a lot of faith in the future. We postpone our work, our dreams and positive lifestyle changes. Some younger people believe that they will quit their harmful habits later and will avoid negative health effects. However, that is not always true. Scientists from UCL discovered that smoking and drinking can damage arteries by age 17.

Teenagers prefer beer over wine. Image credit: Len Rizzi via Wikimedia

A lot of teenagers are smoking and drinking, but it is not a new phenomenon. Such harmful habits were associated with youth for a long time and there is not much that can be done to prevent youth from taking them – where there is a will, there is a way. A lot of these younger people think that one day they will quit and will avoid the most adverse health effects. But scientists took a look at the data from 1,266 adolescents and found that drinking and smoking in adolescence even at lower levels can be associated with arterial stiffening and atherosclerosis progression. Arterial stiffness indicates damage increases the risk of heart attacks and stroke.

Scientists were surprised to find out that injury to the blood vessels occurs very early in life. However, young body can heal itself pretty well. Quitting smoking and drinking early can restore the damage. But those who continue on their bad habits are likely to pay the price later in adulthood. Numerous studies have shown one in five teenagers were smoking by the age of 17, it being more common in families where parents are smoking. Those teenagers who have smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime were facing a relative increase of 3.7% in the stiffening of their arteries compared to those who consumed up to 20 cigarettes.

Similarly, alcohol consumption also led to higher degree of arterial stiffness. Dr Marietta Charakida, author of the study, said: “The age at which participants started drinking alcohol was not associated with arterial health, suggesting that duration of exposure might not be that important at this young age. In addition, no beneficial effect of low alcohol consumption was found with regards to arterial health”. That is why scientists say that policy makers should intensify their efforts trying to discourage children and teenagers from adopting smoking and bad drinking habits.

Everyone knows that smoking and drinking is bad for you. But when everyone around you is doing it and are feeling just fine, you may disregard what your parents have told you. However, some negative consequences of these poor health choices only become visible problems later in adulthood, which cannot be forgotten.


Source: UCL


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