Drinking alcohol can dramatically increase the risk of having a stroke, a Cambridge University professor has warned.
A recent study from Oxford University, Peking University and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences found that one to two drinks a day can increase the risk of stroke by 10-15%.
And people who drink four or more drinks a day could see their risk increase by up to 35%, express reports.
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Professor David Spiegelhalter, from the University of Cambridge, has warned people about the risks of drinking too much – as has the NHS.
He said: “It’s pretty much the opposite effect of taking a statin.”
These are drugs prescribed to help lower blood cholesterol levels and prevent heart attacks and strokes.
The NHS says drinking too much can lead to high blood pressure and increase the risk of an irregular heartbeat, which increases the risk of stroke.
Data shows that around 16 out of 100 men and 20 out of 100 women in the UK will experience a stroke in their lifetime.
Therefore, if a group of 100 non-drinkers started drinking a drink or two every day, there would be two more shots.
According to Professor Spiegelhalter, this represents a 38% increase in total stroke risk for every half bottle of wine drunk per day.
A stroke occurs when there is a blockage in the brain.
It can be fatal.
A stroke is not common in people under the age of 40.
Yet when it does, it’s often caused by abnormally high blood pressure – and alcohol can put you at much higher risk.
Indeed, even light to moderate drinking increases blood pressure – and therefore the risk of stroke, according to a large number of genetic factors. study in The Lancet.
The Lancet study involved British and Chinese researchers who followed 500,000 Chinese people for a decade.
Professor Spiegelhalter said the study made him more skeptical of claims about even moderate alcohol consumption.
“I’ve always been reasonably convinced that moderate alcohol consumption protects against cardiovascular disease, but now I have my doubts,” he said.
Dr Stephen Burgess, from the University of Cambridge, said the study “strongly suggests that there is no cardiovascular benefit to light drinking and that the risk of stroke increases even with light drinking and moderate amount of alcohol”.
He added that “the risk of stroke increases with the amount of alcohol consumed”.
Alcohol can increase the risk of stroke in several ways, including:
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased risk of liver damage
- Increased risk of diabetes
- Weight increase
- Increased risk of atrial fibrillation
The study also found no evidence of light or moderate alcohol consumption having a protective effect that might actually reduce the risk of stroke.
The researchers said more data needed to be collected on the effect of alcohol on heart attack risk.
“Claims that wine and beer have magical protective effects are unconfirmed,” said study author Professor Richard Peto, professor of medical statistics and epidemiology at the University of Oxford.
Simply put, the more alcohol a person drinks, the higher the risk of stroke.
According to some studies, there is no safe amount of alcohol one can drink to reduce the risk of stroke.
A drink is defined as a single small glass of wine, a bottle of beer or a single measure of spirits.
What does the NHS say?
The NHS website states that excessive alcohol consumption can lead to high blood pressure and trigger a irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation).
Both of these can increase your risk of having a stroke.
Because alcoholic beverages are high in calories, they also cause weight gain. Excessive alcohol consumption more than triples the risk of stroke, according to the NHS.
Their website states:
“If you choose to drink alcohol and have fully recovered, you should try not to exceed the recommended limits:
- men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units per week
- spread your intake over 3 or more days if you drink up to 14 units per week
If you have not fully recovered from your stroke, you may find that you have become particularly sensitive to alcohol and even the recommended safe limits may be too high for you.”
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