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Heavy drinking heightens risk of early stroke from bleeding

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
3 drinks a day or 1.6oz of pure alcohol linked to early  stroke from hemorrhage

Evidence from researchers at University of Lille Nord de France in Lille suggests heavy drinking might lead to stroke 15 years earlier than might be experienced by non-heavy alcohol consumers.

For the study, heavy drinking was defined as 3 or more alcoholic drinks per day that could cause bleeding in the brain – a more serious type of stroke than that caused by a blood clot.

According to the American Heart Association, there are two types of stroke caused by bleeding in the brain. One type occurs when a blood vessel ruptures. The other that is now linked to drinking alcohol, occurs deep in the brain tissue and is known as intracerebral hemorrhage; the most common type.

The study investigators found a link between heavy alcohol use and stroke among study participants that occurred at average age of 60.

The results came from interviews of 540 people whose average age was 71. The researchers interviewed stroke victims about drinking habits in addition to questioning caregivers and relatives.

Participants also underwent CT scans and researchers reviewed their medical records.

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Stroke from intracerebral hemorrhage has previously been linked to drinking excessive alcohol. Known risk factors for intracerebral hemorrhage include hypertension, smoking, abdominal obesity, diet, and alcohol intake.

One small study showed the chances of stroke from a blood clot double within the first 2 hours after consuming just one alcoholic beverage, regardless of type

Study author Charlotte Cordonnier, MD, PhD said in a press release, “Our study focuses on the effects of heavy alcohol use on the timeline of stroke and the long-term outcome for those people.”

Heavy drinking was also linked to early death in the study .According to the finding, people who drank1.6 oz of pure alcohol a day were more likely to die within two years of the study follow-up than people who imbibe in moderation.

Cordonnier says it’s also important to note that the participants had no significant medical problems. Heavy alcohol intake is shown in the study to be associated with intracerebral hemorrhage that causes stroke a decade and a half sooner compared to non-heavy drinkers. The researchers aren't sure why heavy drinking leads to stroke at an earlier age. According to the authors it might be the result of early stage small blood vessel disease.

"Heavy alcohol intake and intracerebral hemorrhage: Characteristics and effect on outcome"

September 11, 2012 online

Image credit: Morguefile