Study Finds Heavy Drinking at Middle Age Increases Stroke Risk

By John Lavitt 05/13/15

Researchers found that heavy drinkers in their 50s and 60s suffered strokes earlier in life.

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A new Czech study suggests that people should really cut down their drinking upon reaching middle-age. If a person averages more than two drinks per day, they increase their stroke risk by 34% when compared to those whose daily average amounts to less than half a drink. Published in the journal Stroke in early 2015, the study also found that people who drink heavily in their 50s and 60s tend to suffer strokes earlier in life as well.

The study involved 11,644 middle-aged Swedish twins who were followed in an attempt to examine the effect of genetics and lifestyle factors on risk of stroke. Researchers analyzed results from a Swedish registry of same-sex twins who answered questionnaires between 1967 and 1970. By 2010, the registry yielded 43 years of follow-up, including hospital records and cause-of-death data. Almost 30% of participants had a stroke.

Based on the questionnaires, the participants were categorized as light, moderate, heavy, or nondrinkers. Researchers compared the risk from alcohol and health risks such as high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking. The researchers found that for heavy drinkers, starting at age 50, alcohol produced a high risk of stroke, though both light drinkers and nondrinkers also saw increased risk that grew gradually with age.

Lead author Pavla Kadlecova, a statistician at St. Anne's University Hospital International Clinical Research Center in the Czech Republic explained how, "Our study showed that drinking more than two drinks per day can shorten time to stroke by about five years.”

Researchers concluded that the enhanced stroke risk created by heavy drinking rivals the risk posed by diabetes. The study found heavy drinkers in their 50s and 60s were likely to have a stroke five years earlier in life, irrespective of genetic and lifestyle factors.

It has been well documented that alcohol contributes to high blood pressure and can increase the chances of atrial fibrillation, both health-related risk factors for stroke. As a result, the findings of the study are relevant, but not terribly surprising.

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.