Alcohol Intake Linked to High Stroke Risk
According to a paper recently published in the journal Stroke, those who have more than two drinks per day have a 34% higher chance of having a stroke. Heavy alcohol intake in middle-aged individuals, ages fifty-to-sixty, has also been linked to stoke at a younger age.
Pavla Kadlecova, a researcher from St. Anne’s University Hospital International Clinical Research Center, located in the Czech Republic, is the lead author of this new paper. She aggregated over forty years of data to arrive at these numbers.
So, what exactly is the link between alcohol and strokes? Who provided the sample data for this publication? What can be done to decrease the risk of stroke in those who drink? Let’s find out!
The New Data on Alcohol & Strokes
Kadlecova studied the medical records of over 11,000 middle aged Swedish twins to gather her information – 11,644 Swedish twins to be exact. These twins began answering questionnaires in the late 1960’s. They continued to answer questions and give researchers access to their medical records, including cause of death information, up until 2010.
That’s a total of forty-three years of data to sift through! To say this study was comprehensive is a bit of an understatement. This information was used in an attempt to learn how genetic and lifestyle factors impacted an individual’s risk of stroke.
What researchers found was that throughout early and middle life, heavy drinking posed as much of a risk for stroke as diabetes or high blood pressure. By later life, age seventy-five to be exact, diabetes and high blood pressure overtook alcohol consumption.
Heavy drinking is defined, in this instance, as men having more than two drinks per day and women having more than one.
During early and midlife, heavy drinking caused individuals to be 34% more likely to suffer a stroke. It also increased the average age of stroke by five years, regardless of genetic or lifestyle factors.
Kadlecova noted, “Our study showed that drinking more than two drinks per day can shorten time to stroke by about five years” (News Max Health).
The question then becomes why? Why do two or more drinks per day put individuals at drastically higher risk for stroke? Well, the answer’s still a bit unclear.
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Why Does Heavy Drinking Cause Strokes?
Dr. Irene Katzan, the Director of the Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation at the Cleveland Clinic, believes is has to do with how alcohol affects the blood.
It’s well known that alcohol is a potent blood thinner, on par with Coumadin. Researchers believe that heavy alcohol intake may cause blood vessels in the brain to break, causing a stroke. In fact, Dr. Katzan went on record as saying, “The more you drink, the more risk you have of bleeding in the brain” (News Max Health).
However, other researchers believe that alcohol produces strokes in different ways. Heavy alcohol use contributes to high blood pressure. Remember, high blood pressure, along with diabetes, is a key risk factor for stroke.
Heavy alcohol use also increases the chance of atrial fibrillation, or fast and irregular heartbeat. This is another important risk factor for stroke.
Decreasing the Risk of Stroke
All of the above information is well and good, but it doesn’t address the most important question. What can be done to decrease the risk of stroke in individuals who drink?
Well, the best way to decrease your risk of alcohol-induced stroke is simple enough – stop drinking! However, for “normies” who don’t want to cut out alcohol completely, what other options exist?
The first option is to moderate your drinking. If more than two drinks puts men at an increased risk for stroke, and more than one places women in the same position, don’t drink that much! It’s that simple.
It’s also important to avoid drinking while taking a blood thinner. If alcohol alone increases the risk of stroke, mixing alcohol and blood thinners is a recipe for disaster.
Another practical step is to learn your family’s medical history. Is there a history of stroke in your family? If not, is there a history of either high blood pressure or diabetes? Remember, both are large indicators of future health issues.
If you do all of the above, you’re well on your way to avoiding a stroke!