Researchers collected data from 1,835 patients in the hospital after their heart attacks. The amount and frequency of alcohol consumption in the year prior to their heart attacks was obtained from patient records and interviews. The researchers asked the heart attack survivors how often they consumed three or more drinks within one to two hours -- the study defined this as binge drinking.
Binge drinkers had a 73 percent higher death rate after their heart attacks compared to non-binging patients in the study. Survivors who binged during the year prior to their heart attack were 1.91 times more likely than those who drank moderately to die of any cause -- not just cardiovascular disease -- in the next several years.
"This is a substantial number, especially because we took into consideration such things as age, diabetes, smoking, exercise and socioeconomic status," said lead author Kenneth J. Mukamal, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and internist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Mass. "Even taking into account their lifestyles, they had a higher risk of death. Surprisingly, those who binged, but did so less than once a week, had a death rate just as high -- 1.93 times that of patients who did not binge. This suggests that even occasional binge drinking has risks, especially in people who have suffered a heart attack.
"The implications are profound. We know that heavy drinking on a regular basis is hazardous for people with or without heart disease. Our research extends that knowledge to episodes of heavy drinking, where even occasionally drinking too much appears to pose a risk to your health.