Healthspan News

The link between alcohol and stroke

Posted 28 February 2015 12:00 AM by Dr Sarah Brewer

If you enjoy a glass or two of wine in the evening, here’s some bad news. Drinking more than two alcoholic drinks per day in middle age increases the risk of a stroke by a third, and bring one on five years earlier than for those who have less than half a drink daily. At least in Swedish twins.

A new study published in the American Heart Association journal, Stroke, found that drinking more than two alcoholic beverages a day raises the risk of stroke in middle-age by more than traditional risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking. And by carrying out the study in over 11,600 sets of same-sex Swedish twins, researchers were able to rule out the effects of genetic and early-life factors.

Regular heavy drinking, of any kind of alcohol, whether beer, spirits or wine, raises blood pressure, damages arterial linings and is associated with an irregular heartbeat as well as heart failure with the risks increasing over time. Almost 30 per cent of all participants experienced a stroke over the course of the study, which highlights how common the condition is.

So if you enjoy a regular tipple, aim to have no more than two drinks a day (equivalent to around 200ml normal strength wine, or one pint of beer) to cut your risk of stroke in middle age (which was defined as in your 50s and 60s). Ideally, of course, you should have two or three alcohol-free days per week, too.

The main symptoms of stroke, and what to do, can be remembered with the word FAST: Face Arms Speech Time.

Face – the face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile or their mouth or eye may have dropped.

Arms – the person with suspected stroke may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there because of arm weakness or numbness in one arm.

Speech – their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake.

Time – it is time to dial 999 immediately if you see any of these signs or symptoms.

Read more about the symptoms of a stroke here.

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