Alcohol Consumption and Stroke Risk

Alcoholics risk alienating their family, losing their job, and damaging their health. Now researchers from the University of Lille Nord de France have found evidence that heavy drinkers also risk having a stroke at a younger age than most people.

Too Much of a Good Thing

Researchers found that just consuming three or more drinks per day may increase a person’s risk for stroke by 50 percent. They define one drink as 12oz. of beer, 5oz. of wine, or 1.25 to 1.5 oz. of liquor.

For some patients who are attempting to keep their cholesterol low and avoid stroke by drinking healthy red wine, these findings are alarming. Previous studies have shown that having one alcoholic drink per day may actually lower the risk of having a stroke.

Studies show that alcohol raises a person’s high-density lipoproteins (HDL) cholesterol, the "good" cholesterol, and naturally thins blood. Both of these actions help prevent blood clots that lead to stroke. "Bad" cholesterol (LDL) accumulates in the veins and arteries, slowing and eventually blocking the body’s blood flow. HDL cholesterol helps transport the LDL cholesterol to the liver which filters it out of the blood and then out of the body.

Blood clots are not the only cause of stroke. Intracerebral hemorrhage, bleeding in the brain, can also cause stroke. The recent study revealed that heavy drinking is a risk factor for this type of stroke.

Heavy Drinking Tips the Scale

The research team analyzed 540 people who had suffered an intracerebral hemorrhage. Twenty-five percent of the group admitted to consuming three or more drinks of alcohol each day and were identified as heavy drinkers. The average age of the group was 71 years.

Through CT scans they found that heavy drinkers suffered stroke at the average age of 60. This is 14 years earlier than for people who do not drink heavily. Patients who were less than 60 years old were more likely to die within two years of their stroke if they were heavy drinkers.

Other Harmful Habits of Heavy Drinkers

This latest research adds to the multitude of other problems that heavy drinking may induce. Other studies reveal that heavy drinkers oftentimes may suffer from liver problems and blood irregularities. Intoxication leaves the body more prone to damaging falls. Statistics also reveal that heavy drinking and smoking often go hand-in-hand.

While most individuals are already aware of obvious hazards of heavy drinking, the risk of intracerebral hemorrhage could be hidden from both the alcoholic and their family members. More awareness could prompt individuals to lessen their intake of too many alcoholic beverages.

Heavy drinking will not cause a stroke, but it is a risk factor for early stroke.