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A Drink a Day May Cut Stroke Risk for Some: Study

Fri Apr 19,2002

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Men and women in their 60s who consume one to two drinks a day appear to have a lower risk of stroke compared with their peers who consume less alcohol, study findings suggest.

Curiously, the same stroke-reducing benefits were not seen in other age groups, according to the report published in the April issue of Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

However, too much alcohol has been shown to increase the risk of stroke, the authors note. Past studies have found that binge drinking raises blood pressure and possibly stroke risk, and other research has suggested that the risk of stroke increases with heavy alcohol intake.

In the new study, a reduced risk of stroke was found in men and women aged 60 to 69 who consumed 12 to 23 grams of alcohol per day, with one drink being equivalent to 12 grams of alcohol, reports Dr. Luc Djousse of Boston University School of Medicine in Massachusetts.

Over a 30-year period, Djousse's team evaluated the alcohol consumption habits of 5,209 men and women participating in the Framingham Study, the ongoing analysis of residents of Framingham, Massachusetts.

During that time, 196 men and 245 women had an ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke, which is caused by a blockage in an artery supplying blood to the brain.

While total alcohol consumption was not associated with ischemic stroke across all age groups, the researchers report that a protective effect was observed among men and women in their 60s who had a history of moderate alcohol intake over the course of the study.

When the investigators looked at what type of alcohol the study participants consumed, only wine seemed to lower stroke risk, not beer or alcohol.

"We do not have a biological explanation for these findings and can only speculate," Djousse and colleagues write.

Other studies have found that moderate consumption of any type of alcohol--be it beer, wine or spirits--can lower heart disease risk, most likely due to the blood-thinning effects of alcohol.

Nonetheless, the authors note that wine, in addition to the alcohol, contains phenolic compounds that have antioxidant properties. Together these substances may act to reduce the build-up of fatty plaques in a person's arteries, which can lead to the heart disease atherosclerosis.

SOURCE: Stroke 2002;33:907-912.

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