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Health

Study: Moderate alcohol consumption may protect against stroke

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 ALSO:

Nutrition Comparison of Alcoholic Beverages

Alcohol Quick Facts
 
January 5, 1999
Web posted at: 8:02 p.m. EST (0102 GMT)

From Medical Correspondent Dr. Steve Salvatore

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Many studies show that alcohol consumed in moderation can cut the chances of heart attack. New research shows alcohol also may help reduce the risk of stroke.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, says alcohol consumption appears to protect against ischemic strokes, which occur when blood supply to the brain is blocked by a blood clot. Ischemic strokes account for 80 percent of all strokes.

"Our study showed that having a drink a day or perhaps two drinks per day can reduce the risk of stroke perhaps by as much as 50 percent," said Dr. Mitchell Elkind of Columbia University.

The study looked at 677 people age 40 years or older in northern Manhattan who had suffered an ischemic stroke. By comparing the test subjects with a community sample of 1,139 adults, researchers found those who drank up to two drinks a day had a 45 percent lower stroke risk.

"We found that the protective effect of alcohol with regard to stroke which had been found before in white populations also held for the African American and Hispanic populations, and it also looks (like) it holds for both men and women," Elkind said.

Experts warn that the study is not a reason to start drinking and benefits were only associated with moderate drinking. No study recommends alcohol for those who do not drink.

The study found heavy drinkers, those who consume seven or more drinks a day, have a nearly three times higher risk for stroke than nondrinkers. However, heavy drinkers who stop or cut back drinking can lower their risk to that of a long-term moderate drinker.

A drink is commonly defined as 12 ounces of beer or wine cooler, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.

Researchers said they are not sure how alcohol lowers the risk of stroke or which alcoholic drinks offer the most protection.

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