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Alcohol Alert: Daily Midlife Drinking Inflates Stroke Risk

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Research has linked excess alcohol to serious conditions like cancers and liver disease as well as chronic illnesses like diabetes mellitus and dementia. Now, a study determined that heavy daily drinking during middle-age years could escalate your stroke chances. Although previous studies have reported that association, this one is unique for pinpointing differences by age.

Elongated Twin Study Findings

During a study that tracked 11,644 middle-aged twins over a period of 43 years, investigators compared the consequences of excessive daily drinking (averaging over two drinks) to light drinking (under half of a drink). Heavy drinkers’ stroke risks rose to high levels, beginning at age 50. But nondrinkers and light drinkers’ stroke chances climbed gradually as they aged. Key results included:
  • Excessive drinking gave subjects around 34-percent greater stroke risks than light drinking.
  • Subjects from 50 to 69 who overindulged were liable to suffer from strokes five years sooner, despite genetics and younger-life choices.
  • Compared to mid-life light drinkers, their heavy alcohol-consuming counterparts had greater stroke chances, similar to typical hypertensive and diabetic risk factors.
  • Yet at about age 75, subjects’ blood pressure/blood sugar readings became stronger stroke predictors.
The research team analyzed data on same-sex twin pairs. They were younger than 60 during the initial 1967-70 questionnaire period. By 2010, after 43 follow-up years, available details included hospital discharge records and death causes. The scientists sorted this information according to hypertension, strokes, other cardiovascular events, and diabetes. Nearly 30 percent of the participants had suffered from strokes. The researchers categorized subjects’ drinking statues as none, light, moderate, or heavy, based on their original questionnaires. They compared alcohol and stroke risks including smoking, hypertension, and diabetes. For identical twins, the siblings who’d experienced strokes had drunk more than the ones who hadn’t undergone strokes. This suggests that middle-age drinking increases stroke risks, in spite of genes and younger lifestyle habits. Pavla Kadlecová, M.Sc., the lead author, notes that her findings correspond to the American Heart Association-recommended restriction of two daily drinks (or about 8 ounces total) for men but just one 4-ounce alcoholic beverage for women. She advises mid-life adults that not exceeding these daily amounts could help prevent later strokes in their 60s. The researchers also warn that recurring heavy drinking involving any alcohol types also can lead to irregular heartbeats or heart failure.

Moderation Is Key

Woman having small glass of wine CanadianPharmacyMeds.comA Harvard study measured middle-aged males who drank lightly against abstainers. The researchers found that drinking a daily half-pint beer or small wine glass could lower heart failure risk by 20 percent. Experts say both studies show that consuming small alcohol amounts could have protective heart effects. But they caution that larger quantities are risky. Dr. Tara Narula counsels that alcohol can provide either medicinal benefits or poisonous detriments, depending on the amount you consume. Studies show that both nondrinking and excess intakes raise cardiovascular event and mortality rates. But moderate drinking can decrease your heart attack, stroke, and death chances between 20 and 40 percent. Precisely how alcohol influences stroke risk is unclear, says Dr. Irene Katzan. But various theories point to alcohol’s blood-thinning properties. That could raise your hemorrhagic stroke chances when a blood vessel ruptures within the brain. So Katzan cautions that increased alcohol amounts elevate your risk of dangerous bleeding in your brain. Besides promoting blood pressure problems, alcohol increases atrial fibrillation chances. And both of these conditions are stroke risk factors. Therefore, Kadlecova and Katzan advise heavy drinkers to consider reducing their daily alcohol intakes to moderate levels.

How to Avoid and Handle Strokes

Annually, around 800,000 Americans have strokes, according to the CDC. Your risk varies according to race, age, and geographical residence. African-Americans’ first-stroke chances are almost double that of Caucasians. Although likelihood rises with maturity, strokes occur at various ages. During 2009, 34 percent of hospitalized stroke patients were under 65. The nation’s highest stroke fatalities occur in southeastern states. If you’re at risk for a stroke or had one previously, your doctor may prescribe Clopidogrel, generic Plavix. This blood thinner reduces blood platelets’ sticking ability to prevent dangerous clot formations and thus stroke likelihood. The CDC recommends these healthy lifestyle choices to help you prevent strokes:
  • Eat a well-balanced Limit fats, cholesterol, and salt while increasing fresh produce and fiber.
  • Exercise frequently. Two and a half hours of weekly moderate-intensity physical activities like walking briskly and bicycling will help manage your weight and cholesterol/blood pressure levels.
  • Keep your weight healthy.
  • Refrain from smoking.
  • Restrict your alcohol intake.
Knowing these sudden warning signs can help you respond quickly if a stroke occurs:
  • Facial or limb weakness or numbness, particularly on just one side of your body
  • Confusion and problems understanding or speaking
  • Trouble seeing with either or both eyes
  • Dizziness, walking difficulties, or lost coordination or balance
  • Unexplainable severe headache
Immediate emergency treatment provides your greatest survival chances. Compared to people receiving delayed care, patients reaching emergency rooms within three hours of initial symptoms arising are likely to suffer from fewer disabilities three months after their strokes.



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