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Drinking more Alcohol in middle age increases Stroke Risk

Posted: Wednesday, 04 Feb 2015 11:06

Study: Drinking more Alcohol in middle age increases Stroke Risk

Feb 04: Even as a study by Harvard last week suggests that a small glass of wine daily reduced the risk of heart failure by 30%, another one published in the American Heart Association journal ‘Stroke’ has found that heavily drinking in middle age can increase our risk for suffering a stroke by 34%, more than any other common risk factor, and cautions against excessive consumption

Pavla Kadlecová, a statistician at St. Anne's University Hospital's International Clinical Research Center in the Czech Republic, and her colleagues gathered data using the Swedish Twin Registry. She concludes that for mid-aged adults, avoiding more than two drinks a day could be a way to prevent stroke in the 60s.

Her study involved generating 43 years of follow-up, including hospital discharge, cause of death, and more information from medical records of 11,644 Swedish twins, who were under the age of 60 at the start of the study and responded to questionnaires between 1967 and 1970. While some studies have investigated the relationship between stroke and heavy drinking, rarely have they covered differences in age.

Researchers classified “heavy drinking” as more than two drinks a day and “light drinking” as less than half a drink a day. Questionnaires were used to categorize respondents as either light, moderate, heavy, or non-drinkers. Alcohol consumption was compared to other common risk factors associated with a stroke, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and smoking. Drinking heavily over a period of time can lead to spikes in blood pressure as well as heart failure and irregular heartbeats.

By the end of the 43 years of follow-up, 30 percent of respondents had suffered a stroke. Respondents classified as a “heavy” drinker had around a 34 percent higher risk for a stroke compared to “light” drinkers. Heavily drinking in their 50s and 60s also increased a respondent’s risk for suffering a stroke five years earlier in life. Heavy drinking increased stroke risk during mid-life more than any other risk factor, but blood pressure and diabetes became more significant at around age 75, according to the Report  

According to the American Stroke Association, stroke risk factors are generally into two categories: those that can’t be changed, and those that can be changed, treated, or controlled. Risk factors that can’t be changed include age, heredity, race, and sex. Those that can be changed, treated, or controlled include high blood pressure, smoking, poor diet, and physical inactivity. Alcohol, on the other hand, is considered a “less well-documented risk factor.” But these results indicate that heavy drinking during middle-age is a higher risk factor for stroke than high blood pressure and diabetes.

It could be time for physicians to rethink the degree to which alcohol affects our stroke risk. According to Dr Shamim Quadir, Research Communications Manager at the Stroke Association, “Enjoying alcohol in moderation, taking regular exercise and eating a balanced diet are simple ways to reduce your stroke risk. Anyone with any concerns should have a chat with their GP.”

Last week a separate study by Harvard suggested a small glass of wine a day could reduce the risk of heart failure by 20%. Experts said both studies suggest small quantities of alcohol could have a protective effect on the heart, but that larger amounts were risky. This research compared middle aged men who drink small amounts of alcohol - half a pint of beer a day, or a small glass of wine - with teetotalers.

The two studies corroborate the advisory from delWine that 2 glasses (125 mL) of wine (12.5% alc) for men and 1 glass for women keep a good balance between the benefits and the potential dangers of alcohol.

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Tags: Pavla Kadlecová, American Stroke Association

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