Drinking and Stroke Risk: What You Should Know

It’s no secret that Americans love to drink; according to a 2013 report, 17% of adults admitted to binge drinking. There are many problems associated with excessive drinking, possibly including an increased risk of stroke.

Swedish Surveys

A 2015 study, appearing in the journal Stroke, found that daily consumption of alcohol greatly increases stroke risk later in life. Specifically, this report focused on the drinking habits of nearly 12,000 middle-aged Swedish twins, all of whom submitted questionnaires to a Swedish registry of same-sex twins.

Using these questionnaires, along with four decades of follow-up data from the same registry, the study authors were able to document the health and drinking habits of these subjects. In total, nearly one-third (30 percent) of these adults fell victim to stroke. When it came to alcohol consumption, the twins were placed into one of four categories -light, moderate, heavy or nondrinkers.

Midlife Drinking

For those who drank heavily, the findings were not encouraging; these twins risk of alcohol-induced stroke rose dramatically at roughly age 50. In contrast, those in the light drinkers/non-drinkers categories saw their stroke risk grow at a much slower rate.

To further examine the association between alcohol intake and stroke, the team also focused on the health of identical twins. Among this group, the study noted that those who didn’t experience stroke consumed less alcohol than stroke sufferers. Given this finding, the researchers contend that heavy drinking in middle-age could increase stroke risk independently of genetic makeup or previous lifestyle decisions. Some other notable findings provided by the study
are shown below:
• Heavy drinkers, defined by the study as those that consumed more than two drinks per day – had a 34% higher stroke risk than light drinkers (subjects who average half a daily drink)
• Lead author Pavla Kadlecova noted that heavy alcohol intake (over two drinks daily) could expedite stroke occurrence by approximately five years
• Up to age 75, heavy drinking is a bigger risk factor for stroke than even high blood pressure or diabetes.

In an interview with Medscape Medical News, Kadlecova stated that “Individuals consuming more than 2 alcoholic drinks per day are putting themselves at a significantly increased risk of stroke, particularly in their early old age, when
they should still be active and productive.” She further stressed the need for doctors to monitor the alcohol intake of their middle-aged patients.

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