A new study that followed nearly 84,000 women for 26 years found that women who drank a glass of wine, beer or a mixed drink daily were less likely to have a stroke, when compared to women didn’t drink at all.
The study was published last week in the journal Stroke.
Previous research had shown that light-to-moderate alcohol consumption was associated with a lower risk of heart disease, but researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston wanted to see how low amounts of alcohol affected the risk of stroke.
They analyzed data from about 84,000 women, with no cardiovascular disease, who were between the ages of 30 and 55 when the study began in 1980.
Over the years, the women had 2,171 strokes. Most were ischemic strokes — the most common kind — which occurs when a clot blocks the flow of blood to the brain, depriving it of oxygen.
Of the 25,000 women who were nondrinkers, 1,045 suffered a stroke. Among the 29,000 who drank lightly — less than half a glass daily, on average — 552 had a stroke. Among the 20,000 who drank moderately — about a glass of wine, beer or a mixed cocktail per day — 341 had a stroke, according to the study.
Just 4 percent said they drank 2 to 3 glasses of wine daily — too small a number for the researchers to draw any definite conclusions about how heavier drinking affects stroke risk.
However, earlier research has shown that heavy drinking can increase blood pressure and the risk for irregular heartbeat, study author and epidemiologist Monik Jimenez, told National Public Radio. Both of these conditions have been linked to more strokes.
As for why moderate drinking has this protective effect, the researchers said it may be because a low amount of alcohol boosts the production of HDL, the good form of cholesterol, which helps reduce the risk of blood clots.
However, this does not mean that women who are nondrinkers should begin drinking, Jimenez told NPR. Even women who don’t drink, still have a relatively low of risk of stroke.
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