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Study finds heavy drinking linked to higher stroke risk

BOSTON -- A new study led by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) has found that heavy drinkers -- men who consume an average of three or more alcoholic beverages per day -- are nearly 45 percent more likely to suffer an ischemic stroke compared with nondrinkers. The study also found that while light and moderate drinkers appear to be at neither greater risk nor greater advantage than abstainers when it comes to ischemic stroke, the frequency with which they consume alcohol may modestly influence their risk.

The findings, reported in the January 4, 2005 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, help shed light on a subject that has been the source of some confusion, and reinforce the importance of what the authors call "drinking patterns," the number of days per week that alcohol is consumed and the amount consumed on drinking days.

"In this study, the participants who were at lowest risk for stroke were the men who consumed one or two drinks on three to four days of the week," says lead author Kenneth Mukamal, MD, MPH, a general internist at BIDMC and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. "The importance of drinking pattern for stroke risk parallels our previous findings among this same group of men regarding alcohol consumption and the risk of developing diabetes and coronary heart disease. Among all three types of disease, the lowest risk seems to occur when consumption is limited to one or, at most, two drinks, approximately every other day, with little benefit shown above three to four drinking days per week."

Nearly 700,000 individuals in the U.S. suffer an ischemic stroke each year. Sometimes referred to as a "brain attack," the condition develops when an artery in the brain becomes blocked by a blood clot. There are two types of ischemic stroke: thrombotic, which results from the development of a blood clot within the brain itself, and embolic,
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3-Jan-2005


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