Alcohol a Factor in Strokes Later in Life


A recent study published January 29 in the American Heart Association Journal called Stroke found that alcohol is a factor in causing strokes later in life. It has been well documented that excessive drinking is related to a variety of ailments. Cardiologist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, Dr. Tara Narula, says that what was found in this specific study was that two drinks a day or in excess of that, was too much. Two drinks a day for middle-aged individual’s, between the ages 50 and 60, was a greater contributor to instances of stroke than high blood pressure and diabetes.

Stroke’s article stated that the study included 11,644 Swedish twins from the Twin Registry. The study began in 1967 when a questionnaire was given to the participants categorizing themselves as non-drinkers, low drinkers, medium drinkers, or high drinkers. The next step was to eliminate all of the non-drinkers because it was unclear whether they had been drinkers in the past and had just stopped or if they had never actually drank alcohol. Low drinkers were individuals who consumed less than one-half drinks a day, medium drinkers were those who consumed between one-half and two drinks a day, and high drinkers were categorized as drinkers who consume more than two alcoholic drinks a day.


The study followed their patients for 40 years and found that by the time these middle-aged drinkers reach 75 years of age, 34 percent of them had suffered a stroke. To researchers, alcohol clearly played a factor in these strokes that occurred later in the participants’ lives. Pavla Kadlecova, a lead author of the study and statistician at St. Anne’s University Hospital International Clinical Research Center located in the Czech Republic explains that when people drink in excess of two drinks per day it shortens the time expectancy of a stroke by five years.

The study did not differentiate between different types of alcohol though. For example, it did not note whether the drinkers were consuming beer, wine, whisky or vodka. The data did however indicate that men should refrain from having more than two drinks per day while women should limit themselves to one drink daily. The study also did not take into consideration whether not consuming alcohol at all might lower future risk of stroke.

A professor at the University of Cambridge’s Primary Care Unit and noted expert in the prevention of strokes commented that what this research specifically means to him is that people who drink heavily are simply more at risk of stroke, even more that those with high blood pressure or diabetes. Dr. Narula wanted to make clear that interpreting alcohol’s effect on people is a bit like “Jekyll and Hyde.” A diagram of effects might look like a J. People who consume no alcohol and people who consume too much are both at higher risk of stroke than those who consume a moderate amount.

This study shows that if people between the ages of 50 and 60 drink in excess of two alcoholic drinks per day, this will be a factor in their having a stroke later in life. Although Dr. Narula explains that some alcohol is fine to consume in moderation, others feel since this study only came from one questionnaire,  and it is possible that the study underestimated the effects alcohol has on potential stroke victims.

By Joel Wickwire

The Verge
Photo by Thomas Anderson – License
Photo by Oliver Hammond – License

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