Alcohol may cut stroke risk

Light-moderate drinkers have 20% less risk than teetotalers

Nov 18, 1999 - A new study finds that an occasional drink may lower the risk of having a stroke. Numerous studies have shown that modest drinking reduces the risk of heart disease. But until now, the evidence of an effect on strokes has been less convincing.


The study, which appears in today's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, found that light to moderate drinkers can lower their risk by about 20% compared to teetotalers. It showed that as little as a single glass of wine or beer per week could significantly reduce stroke risk. The study involved more than 22,000 men. One of the researchers said the results could also apply to women.

The study found no added protection from stroke by drinking more than lightly or moderately. Researchers warned of liver damage, the dangers of driving while drunk and the risks to fetuses of drinking while pregnant.

The American Heart Association estimates that 600,000 people in the United States suffer a stroke each year. It is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., and the leading cause of serious, long-term disability.

Earlier studies were criticized because they simply compared drinkers to nondrinkers. This latest study examined varying levels of alcohol intake.

It found that between one drink a week and one a day reduces the risk, and the lesser amount was about as good as the higher one.

Researchers attribute alcohol's benefits to its ability to increase the amount of HDL, or good cholesterol, in the bloodstream. Researchers also say alcohol can break up blood clots.