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Study investigates role of alcohol in causing strokes

Study investigates role of alcohol in causing strokes

With 86.4 percent of Americans aged 18 and above accepting to have consumed alcohol at some point in their lifetime, alcohol has indeed become one of the most widely abused substances in the United States. The 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) even suggested that 26.9 percent of people aged 18 or older were involved in binge drinking in the month preceding analysis while 7 percent reported to have engaged in heavy alcohol use during the same time.

While there has been a debate over the possible benefits of moderate drinking, there is hardly any doubt about the hazards of drinking beyond the recommended dose of one to two drinks for men and one drink for women on daily basis.  A 2016 study titled “Differing association of alcohol consumption with different stroke types: a systematic review and meta-analysis” published online in BMC Medicine in November 2016, suggested that light and moderate alcohol consumption might decrease the risk of ischemic stroke, while heavy drinking is associated with increased risk of all types of stroke.

What is a stroke?

A stroke occurs when blood supply to the brain is affected. It is either caused due to interrupted blood supply to the brain or rupturing of the blood vessel within the brain, causing brain tissue to die. A stroke is a medical emergency requiring immediate medical attention.

There are three main kinds of strokes:

  • Ischemic strokes: It is caused due to narrowing or obstruction of the arteries supplying blood to the brain, resulting in ischemia that means severely reduced blood flow.
  • Hemorrhagic strokes: It is caused by rupturing or bursting of arteries in the brain thereby, leading to spilling blood into space between the brain and the skull. Conditions such as hypertension, trauma or weakened blood vessel walls can also cause the arteries to rupture.
  • Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs): In TIA, the flow of blood to the brain is interrupted for brief periods often caused due to blood clots. TIAs are warning signs of future strokes and should be immediately addressed.

Alcohol and risk of stroke

The current study presents a meta-analysis of 27 prospective studies establishing divergent associations of alcohol with specific stroke type. It was found that light and moderate alcohol consumption (up to two drinks/day) might reduce the risk of ischemic stroke but had no effect on hemorrhagic (intracerebral or subarachnoid) strokes. On the other hand, heavy alcohol consumption was found to elevate the risk of all stroke types, with stronger causal associations with hemorrhagic strokes compared to ischemic stroke.

Alcohol consumption tends to increase ‘high-density lipoprotein cholesterol’ (the ‘good cholesterol’ that helps prevent narrowing of arteries and reduce the risk of heart attack) levels and decrease fibrinogen levels (a glycoprotein that aids the formation of blood clots) thereby lowering the risk of ischemic stroke. Probably, this is the reason no association was reported between hemorrhagic stroke and light and moderate alcohol consumption. However, the adverse effect of alcohol consumption in elevating blood pressure may increase the risk of hemorrhagic stroke and outweigh any possible benefit of moderate alcohol consumption, suggests Dr. Susanna C. Larsson, lead author of the study and associate professor of epidemiology at the Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.

“Our results showed that heavy drinkers were about 1.6 times more likely to suffer from intracerebral hemorrhage and 1.8 times more likely to suffer from subarachnoid hemorrhage. The association between heavy alcohol consumption and these two types of stroke was stronger than that for ischemic stroke,” concludes Dr. Larsson.

Curbing alcohol addiction with holistic treatment

There is clear evidence supporting association between alcohol consumption and increased risk of strokes. Alcohol is a menace and a deterrent to achieve optimum physical, mental and social health. It is advisable to walk the path of sobriety as early as possible. The Texas Substance Abuse Helpline offers help to those addicted to a dangerous substance by providing effective information on substance abuse treatment programs in Texas. You may chat online with our representatives or call our 24/7 helpline number 866-971-2658 to get details about some of the best substance abuse treatment centers in Texas.