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Alcohol Consumption & The Risk Of Stroke

Published on August 18, 2021
Alcohol Consumption & The Risk Of Stroke

Heavy alcohol consumption can increase the risk of stroke. The ways that alcohol can affect your risk of a stroke depend on the type of stroke and the amount of alcohol being consumed.

The effects of alcohol that have an impact on strokes include high blood pressure, increased amount of cholesterol in the blood, and a higher risk of comorbid diseases like heart disease.

Previous studies have suggested moderate drinking can lower your risk of stroke. While some newer studies back up this claim, others suggest that any amount of alcohol can increase the risk of stroke, even moderate drinking.

How Alcohol Can Increase The Risk Of Stroke

A stroke is a form of cardiovascular disease, where blood flow to your brain is blocked or interrupted. The main types of strokes are ischemic strokes, hemorrhagic strokes, and transient ischemic attacks (mini-strokes).

Ischemic strokes, the most common type, involve a blockage of blood to the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes happen when leaking arteries lead to bleeding in the brain, while mini-strokes are often warning signs that you may suffer a real stroke soon.

Alcohol intake is a known risk factor for hemorrhagic strokes. Its relationship to the other types of strokes are still being studied, with different studies having different results.

High Blood Pressure

Heavy alcohol use often leads to high blood pressure, or hypertension. High blood pressure is one of the top risk factors for suffering a stroke. Hypertension was present in around 65 percent of total strokes, according to one study.

Alcohol abuse causes inflammation and oxidation, which can both lead to high blood pressure. One risk of high blood pressure is intracerebral hemorrhage, a form of hemorrhagic stroke where blood vessels in the brain burst and put pressure on surrounding areas of the brain.

The risk for hemorrhagic stroke is likely to increase if more alcoholic beverages are consumed. Hemorrhagic strokes have a higher incidence in patients who drink heavily, compared to patients who drink less or not at all.

Alcohol & Ischemic Strokes

It is unknown how alcohol affects your risk of ischemic stroke. Some studies show no relationship between alcohol and this form of stroke. Others cite alcohol as a risk factor, while still others even suggest alcohol can reduce your risk of an ischemic stroke.

Alcohol can increase the risk of atrial fibrillation, a form of irregular heartbeat that can reduce blood flow. Reduced blood flow is a risk factor for cerebral infarction (oxygen-deprived brain tissue) and ischemic stroke, since the brain may not be getting the blood or oxygen it needs.

Over 85% of all strokes are ischemic strokes, but finding, treating, and preventing these strokes is still difficult.

Can Alcohol Also Decrease The Risk Of Stroke?

While heavy drinking has been linked to an increased risk of stroke for many years, moderate alcohol consumption has actually been linked to a decreased risk of stroke. Many previous studies over the past 40 years suggested the same idea.

Drinking alcohol can increase the amount of a specific type of cholesterol in your blood, which can help prevent blood clots. Blood clots are a well-known cause of several types of cardiovascular disease, including coronary artery disease, heart attack, and ischemic stroke.

New studies challenge the idea that moderate drinking can help you avoid strokes, suggesting that any amount of alcohol can lead to a higher risk of stroke. 

The relationship between alcohol and stroke may also be affected by genetic and lifestyle factors, such as ethnic background and keeping a healthy weight.

Treating Alcohol-Related Health Problems

Having alcoholic drinks with friends once in a while can help you improve your mood and relax. If you are struggling to control your drinking habits, you may be in danger of more serious effects of alcohol, including hangovers, alcohol dependence, and even stroke.

These risks may outweigh the potential benefits of moderate drinking for some. Once you start drinking large amounts of alcohol, however, it can be hard to stop without professional help.

Finding a dedicated treatment program for a drinking problem can help you quit and improve your health in the long term. To find a treatment program that works for you and your loved ones, contact us today.

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.
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