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Controllable Risk Factors – Alcohol Use

How is alcohol use linked to stroke?
Scientists are still figuring out how alcohol use can be linked to stroke. The most important thing to remember is that a doctor is the best resource for determining how alcohol use will affect stroke risk. In some studies, drinking lots of alcohol has been negatively linked to stroke. For example, more than 2 drinks per day may increase stroke risk by 50%. Other studies have indicated that 1 alcoholic drink a day may lower a person’s risk for stroke, provided that there is no other medical reason for avoiding alcohol. Although recommendations for moderate alcohol consumption range from 1 to 2 drinks per day, the vast majority of healthcare professionals agree that drinking more than one to two drinks each day can increase stroke risk and lead to other medical problems, including heart and liver disease, and possibly brain damage.

What counts as 1 drink?
12 ounces of beer
1 glass (5 ounces) of wine
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 ounces of liquor

Alcohol is also reported in some studies to have a protective effect against stroke because it raises levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL) cholesterol, often called “good” cholesterol. HDLs carry cholesterol to the liver where it is filtered out of blood and eliminated. Too much cholesterol in the blood causes plaque to accumulate in blood vessels and arteries, slowing blood flow and possibly leading to stroke. Alcohol is also considered to be a mild blood thinner, which may prevent clots from forming in blood vessels and causing a stroke.

Because conflicting reports exist about alcohol use and its effects on stroke risk, talk to your doctor before consuming alcoholic drinks on a regularly basis. Remember that alcohol is a drug and can interact with other drugs you may be taking. If you do not drink, don’t start. Many professionals in the healthcare community believe more studies are necessary to determine if the benefits of alcohol outweigh the risks.  

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