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Alcohol and the Risk for Stroke in Men FREE

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The summary below is from the full report titled “Alcohol and Risk for Ischemic Stroke in Men: The Role of Drinking Patterns and Usual Beverage.” It is in the 4 January 2005 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine (volume 142, pages 11-19). The authors are K.J. Mukamal, A. Ascherio, M.A. Mittleman, K.M. Conigrave, C.A. Camargo Jr., I. Kawachi, M.J. Stampfer, W.C. Willett, and E.B. Rimm.

Ann Intern Med. 2005;142(1):I-24. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-142-1-200501040-00002
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What is the problem and what is known about it so far?

Stroke occurs when blood stops flowing to the brain, usually because of blood vessel disease that causes blockage in an artery. The blood vessel disease that causes stroke is similar to that which causes heart disease, and the same factors that cause or prevent heart disease often cause or prevent stroke. Research shows that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol protects a person from developing heart disease. It is not clear if drinking alcohol has any effect on a person's risk for stroke.

Why did the researchers do this particular study?

To see if drinking alcohol affects a person's risk for stroke, and if that risk differs by amount of alcohol, frequency of drinking, and the type of alcohol a person drinks.

Who was studied?

38 156 male health professionals between 40 and 75 years of age who had never had a stroke. All were participants in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, a project begun in 1986 to evaluate the role of nutritional factors in men's health.

How was the study done?

Over 12 years, researchers used questionnaires to determine how much and what types of alcohol participants drank, how often they drank, and if they had had a stroke since the last time they completed a questionnaire. Participants received questionnaires every 2 years, but only every other questionnaire included questions on alcohol consumption. The researchers then compared the participants' risk for stroke by amount and frequency of drinking and by type of alcohol consumed.

What did the researchers find?

Four hundred twelve of the study participants had a stroke. Having 3 or more drinks per day seemed to increase the risk. Moderate drinking appeared to have a protective effect; participants who drank 1 to 2 times per day 3 to 4 days of the week were almost one third less likely to have a stroke than participants who abstained from alcohol altogether. Red wine seemed to be more protective than beer or other liquor.

What are the limitations of the study?

The small number of strokes limited the precision of the findings, which could have been a result of factors other than alcohol. The researchers could not study all forms of stroke and could not say for sure if red wine was better than other types of alcohol because some people drank more than 1 type.

What are the implications of the study?

Heavy drinking seems to increase risk for stroke. Moderate drinking, especially of red wine, appears to protect against stroke and is probably safe for adults who can control how much and when they drink.





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