Moderate alcohol consumption associated with higher risk of stroke


A stroke describes a life-threatening medical emergency triggered by a cut-off blood supply to the part of your brain. Poor lifestyle decisions lay the groundwork for this serious condition, with one drink being especially harmful. New research suggests that even moderate consumption can increase your risk by a whopping amount.

Whether you have a glass of wine with your meal or hit the pub for a pint, millions of Britons enjoy an occasional drink or two.

However, a new study, published in the journal Neurology, makes you think twice about how much alcohol your body can take without stirring up problems.

The research called INTERSTROKE suggested that even moderate alcohol consumption can increase the odds of a stroke.

In fact, the research team co-led by University of Galway warned that alcohol can boost your risk of intracerebral haemorrhage – stroke due to bleeding – by a daunting 50 percent.

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Looking at 26,000 people worldwide, the global study found that both high and moderate alcohol consumption were associated with an increased risk of the medical emergency.

One quarter of the sample were current drinkers and two-thirds were classed as teetotallers.

Unlike previous research, this study considered people from a range of ethnic backgrounds in 27 countries, including Ireland and the UK.

Professor Martin O’Donnell, who co-led the study, said: “Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability globally.



“Each year, approximately 7,500 Irish people have a stroke, and around 2,000 of these people die.

“While high alcohol intake is known to increase stroke risk, there is some uncertainty about whether low-moderate alcohol intake affects stroke risk and whether the association of alcohol intake with stroke varies by region and population.”

A stroke can be either triggered by a blood clot, leading to a so-called ischaemic stroke, or by bleeding, causing intracerebral haemorrhage.

The study findings suggested that “current drinkers” had a 14 percent increase in odds of all strokes and 50 percent increased risk of intracerebral haemorrhage.

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However, the data didn’t suggest any rise in the risk of ischaemic stroke – the one stirred up by blood clots.

What’s worse, the more you drink, the higher your risk becomes. Science Daily penned about the research: “Heavy episodic or formerly termed ‘binge drinking’ – defined as more than five drinks in one day at least once a month – was linked with a 39 percent increase in all stroke; 29 percent increase in ischaemic stroke; and 76 percent increase in intracerebral haemorrhage.

“High alcohol intake – defined as more than 14 drinks/week for females and more than 21 drinks/week for males – was linked with a 57 percent increase in stroke.”

The good news is that the research found that people who gave up drinking were not at increased risk of a stroke.

Furthermore, your drink of choice could also play a part in your risk. Professor Andrew Smyth, the lead researcher, said: “In this study, we also looked at the differences between types of alcohol.

“Predominant beer consumption was linked with a 21 percent increase in risk of stroke; this was significantly higher (73 percent) for intracerebral haemorrhage.

“Predominant wine consumption was not linked with risk of stroke – there was no increase or decrease.”

The NHS advises not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week for both men and women to “keep health risk from alcohol to a low level”.

In case, you’re not aware, a unit of alcohol is eight grams or 10ml of pure alcohol, which is about:

  • Half a pint of lower to normal-strength lager/beer/cider (ABV 3.6 percent)
  • A single small shot measure (25ml) of spirits (25ml, ABV 40 percent).
  • A small glass (125ml, ABV 12 percent) of wine contains about 1.5 units of alcohol.


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