Risk of stroke is reduced by drinking alcoholic beverages in moderation. They can be wine, spirits or beer. This is the finding of a systematic review of 26 studies. They were both cohort and case-control investigations.
II. Reduce Risk
Ischemic stroke results from an obstruction within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. Fatty deposits line the inside of the vessel walls. They can block blood to the brain. Alcohol in the blood reduces the buildup of these deposits.
Almost nine of every ten strokes is ischemic. The rest are hemorrhagic strokes. These are caused by a bulge (aneurism) that ruptures. Or by a weak blood vessel that leaks. Blood then seeps into or around the brain. This creates swelling and pressure that can kill brain cells.
Stroke is often called a ‘brain attack.’ It kills brain cells. This results in the loss of the abilities controlled by the part of the brain damaged. Almost a third of people who suffer stroke recover completely. But the rest experience some form of permanent disability.
Stroke is the leading cause of disability among adults in the U.S. It is the fifth leading cause of death in the country. Every year almost 800,000 people have a stroke. As many as eight of every 10 strokes can are preventable. A stroke occurs every 40 seconds. Someone dies from one every four minutes
Common symptoms of stroke are easy to remember using “FAST.”
F Face drooping. One side of the face droops or is numb.
A One arm is weak or numb.
S Speech is impaired or difficult.
T Time to call 911.
Other symptoms can include such things as
- Weakness on one side of the body.
- Unsteady gait or unusual walk.
- Severe headache.
- Numbness or tingling.
- Loss of vision.
If in doubt, always call 911. With stroke, prompt treatment is essential.
Factors that increase our risk of stroke are.
- Age. Our risk doubles every ten years after 55.
- Gender. Being male.
- Heredity. Having close relatives who have had strokes at an early age.
- Hypertension (high blood pressure).
- A previous stroke or a ‘mini-stroke.’ That’s a transient ischemic attack or TIA.
- Heart disease.
- Race. Being African-American or Hispanic-American.
II. Reduce Risk of Stroke
The Harvard Medical School recommends doing eight things to reduce the risk of stroke.
- Lower your blood pressure, if needed. The top number should be less than 120. The bottom number should be less than 80.
- Lose weight, if necessary. Your body mass index (BMI) should be 25 or less. Visit Calculate Your Body Mass Index.
- Exercise more. Exercise at a moderate intensity level at least five days per week.
- Drink alcohol daily in moderation. It can be beer, wine or spirits. Frequent, moderate drinking reduces risk of stroke.
- Take a baby aspirin every day. But talk with your doctor first.
- Treat atrial fibrillation if you have it.
- Treat diabetes if you have it.
- Don’t smoke.
We can’t change our family medical history, race, or age. But there are many things we can do to reduce our risk of stroke. And if you think you or someone else might possibly be having a stroke, call 911 immediately.
Prompt medical care can mean the difference between life and death. Better safe than sorry.
III. Resources on Risk of Stroke
Marler, J. Stroke for Dummies. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2005.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Preventing Stroke. Bethesda: The Institute, 2011.
Spence, J. How to Prevent Your Stroke. Nashville: Vanderbilt U Press, 2006.
Stein, J. et al. Life after Stroke. The Guide to Recovering Your Helath and Preventing another Stroke. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins U Press, 2006.
Stein, J. Stroke and the Family. Cambridge: Harvard U Press, 2004.
Berger, K., et al. Light-to-moderate alcohol consumption and the risk of stroke among U.S. male physicians. New Eng J Med., 1999, 341 (21), 1557-1564.
Bronner, L., et al. Primary prevention of stroke. New Eng J Med., 1995, 333(21), 1392-1400.
Jimenez, M., et al. Alcohol consumption and risk of stroke in women. Stroke, 2012, 43(4), 939-945.
Patra, J., et al. Alcohol consumption and the risk of morbidity and mortality for different stroke types. BMC Pub Hlth., 2010, 10, art # 258.
Sacco, R. L., et al. The Protective Effect of Moderate Alcohol Consumption on Ischemic Stroke. JAMA, 1999, 281, 53-60.