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Two new studies have shown that binge drinking not only increases your heart attack risk but also can also cause lasting damage to your brain.

The two studies, conducted by a team of international scientists led by experts at the renowned Harvard School of Public Health and the other by researchers from the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University Center and Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center, came to the conclusion that binge drinking is linked to increased chances of cardiac episodes and can also hinder long term memory and learning skills.

The study let by the experts at the Harvard School of Public Health examined almost 4,000 heart attack victims from across the country to see how many had been drinking in the hours leading up to their heart attack.  Each patient was asked to recall how much alcohol and what type of alcohol they consumed.  They were then also asked to describe their usual drinking habits in the year leading up to their cardiac episode.

The results, published in the Journal of Epidemiology, found the chances of a heart attack increased by 72 percent in the hour after drinking began.  The increased danger then subsided within three hours and after 24 hours of starting to binge drink there was no increase.  Researchers said "binge drinking is associated with higher cardiovascular risk."

"Habitual moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a lower risk of heart attacks, whereas binge drinking is associated with higher cardiovascular risk."

The other study, conducted by researchers from the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University Center and Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center, demonstrated that changes in the brains of adult rats who were exposed to levels of alcohol that were equivalent to binge drinking suffered damage that negatively impacted their long-term memory and learning skills. 

In another related study, researchers found that binge drinking is on the rise especially for women.  The study found that binge drinking rates in women rose almost 36 percent and rose 23 percent among men although men are still more likely to binge drink overall.

"It seems like women are trying to catch up to the men in binge drinking (...) It's really, really scary," said Ali Mokdad, the lead author of the study.

In 2010, about 88,600 deaths in the United States were attributed to alcohol and the cost of excessive drinking has been estimated at more than $220 billion per year.