Does Alcohol Abuse Increase the Risk of Stroke?

alcohol abuse and stroke

Long-term alcohol abuse can have detrimental effects on your mind and body. When it comes to your physical health, alcohol is known to lead to a wide range of health problems, such as liver disease, gastrointestinal issues, diabetes, and even stroke. Studies have found that moderate and heavy drinking may increase the risk of stroke, particularly in patients who are already considered high risk. However, even healthy people who engage in chronic alcohol abuse may be at an increased stroke risk.

What is a Stroke?

A stroke is a medical emergency that occurs when blood flow to a portion of the brain is cut off. Strokes can vary in severity, for example, someone having a small stroke may experience weakness in an extremity without any long-term effects, but someone with a larger stroke may become paralyzed or forget how to speak or eat.

While many people recover from strokes, most end up with some kind of disability or lingering health issues. This is because brain cells die when they aren’t receiving oxygen. Strokes can impact bodily functions, memory, and other cognitive processes.

Stroke symptoms usually develop suddenly. Signs and symptoms of stroke include:

  • Difficulty seeing in one or both eyes
  • Severe headache
  • Sudden numbness on one side of the body
  • Trouble walking and poor coordination
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding speech

There are three main kinds of stroke:

  1. Ischemic stroke – occurs when blood clots block a blood vessel that is supposed to transport blood to the brain.
  2. Hemorrhagic stroke – occurs when a person has an aneurysm (leaking or bursting blood vessel). This type of stroke is rare, but it is the deadliest.
  3. Transient ischemic attack (TIA) – occurs when a person has stroke-like symptoms, but not a full-blown, life-threatening stroke.

Between 80-90% of strokes are ischemic strokes, making this the most common type of stroke. Every year, more than 795,000 people have a stroke, and nearly 1 in 4 strokes occur in people who have already had a previous stroke.[1]

Who is at an Increased Stroke Risk?

Alcohol abuse and alcoholism are risk factors for stroke, but there are other variables that can put you at an increased stroke risk, as well. 

Leading risk factors for stroke in the United States are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity, and diabetes.[1] If you have one of these health conditions and you abuse alcohol, you further increase your risk of stroke.

Can Alcohol Abuse Cause a Stroke?

Studies have shown that alcohol abuse, particularly long-term, chronic drinking, can substantially increase a person’s risk of stroke, heart attack, and other cardiovascular issues. Some studies show alcohol can amplify this risk by 10-15 percent. Alcohol abuse can also cause you to have a stroke an average of 14 years earlier than people who don’t abuse alcohol.[2,3] 

Alcohol particularly increases the risk of two types of strokes: ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke.[2] Part of the reason for this increased risk is because alcohol causes high blood pressure and high triglycerides in the blood–both of which increase your chances of having a stroke.

There are many other ways in which alcohol increases the risk of cardiovascular events. Alcohol:

  • Increases blood pressure
  • Causes weight gain
  • Increases diabetes risk
  • Increases the risk of liver damage which can reduce the body’s ability to clot blood correctly
  • May contribute to atrial fibrillation or irregular heartbeat

Each of these factors increases the risk of stroke. The more you drink and the longer you drink, the more your risk of stroke and other cardiovascular health problems increases. If you want to reduce your chances of having a stroke, you should avoid having more than two drinks a day (if you are a man) or more than one drink a day (if you are a woman).

Can You Drink Alcohol After Having a Stroke?

Doctors typically advise their patients to avoid drinking alcohol after suffering a stroke because alcohol abuse can increase the risk of having another stroke. Drinking too much after a stroke can also increase your risk for a variety of other health problems, including:

  • Increased weight gain which can increase the risk of another stroke
  • Worsened depression and other mental health conditions which can lead to poor self-care
  • Increased vulnerability to negative effects of alcohol such as liver damage
  • Amplified side effects of medications, such as blood thinners, that are used to prevent stroke
  • Forgetfulness due to intoxication may cause you to miss a dose of your medication or make poor health choices

If you are concerned that you can’t stay away from alcohol after your doctor directs you to stop drinking, you may have a drinking problem. Speak with an admissions counselor at Moving Mountains Recovery today to see if you can benefit from one of our alcohol rehab programs in New Jersey.

Find Help for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Today

Having trouble cutting back on your alcohol consumption or controlling your drinking in the wake of a health issue is a sign of an alcohol use disorder. While you may not want to go to rehab, doing so can save your life and prevent you from facing additional health issues in the future. If you have had a stroke before, getting sober may even help you avoid having another stroke in the future.

At Moving Mountains Recovery, our holistic approach helps you heal your mind, body, and spirit for a complete recovery. Learn more about our alcoholism treatment options in New Jersey by speaking with one of our trusted admissions counselors today.

References:

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/facts.htm
  2. https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2458-10-258
  3. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/STROKEAHA.120.032144
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