Alcohol use has many health consequences, including contributing to an increased risk of strokes and other negative outcomes.

There are many health conditions associated with the use of alcohol, so it can be difficult to be aware of all the potential risks involved. One of the simplest ways someone can reduce the risks of developing serious health consequences is to decrease alcohol intake.

However, if a person continues drinking, the risk of stroke is one important alcohol-related consequence to consider. This is because heavy drinking is linked to all major types of stroke. The following looks at how alcohol increases stroke risks, what happens during a stroke and ways that people can reduce alcohol-related health concerns.

What Is a Stroke?

A stroke, sometimes known as a brain attack, is a situation that can occur at any time. It describes a scenario where blood flow to a portion of the brain is cut off. When brain cells aren’t receiving oxygen, they can die. Depending on where the stroke occurs in the brain and how long the person is affected by it, functions like memory may be diminished or lost.

If someone only has a small stroke, the effects may be less detrimental and simply cause weakness in an extremity. However, if someone has a larger stroke, they could become paralyzed or even lose the ability to speak. Some people completely recover after having a stroke, but many who survive them ultimately end up having some kind of disability. Every year, more than 795,000 Americans have a stroke.

There are several different kinds of stroke, including:

  • Hemorrhagic stroke: This occurs when a weakened blood vessel leaks or bursts (aneurysm). This is the least common type of stroke but also the deadliest.
  • Ischemic stroke: This occurs when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel that carries blood to the brain. Around 87%of all strokes are ischemic.
  • Transient ischemic attack (TIA): This involves stroke-like symptoms, but it isn’t necessarily the same as a full-blown stroke.

What You Should Know About Alcohol and Stroke

Alcohol is a risk factor for stroke. This is primarily because alcohol can cause high blood pressure and high triglycerides; each of these conditions can increase your chances of having a stroke. For people who are concerned about alcohol-related stroke risks, the current recommendation is that men shouldn’t have more than two drinks a day, and women should not exceed one drink a day.

Related Topic: Does alcohol lower blood pressure?

Some people wonder if it’s wise to drink alcohol after having a stroke. There are a few things to keep in mind. If you’re taking certain medicines after having a stroke, such as blood thinners or aspirin, it’s probably best to avoid alcohol. Drinking while taking aspirin can increase the risk of stomach bleeding. Additionally, people who have lasting neurological issues due to a stroke may be more susceptible to the negative effects of alcohol, such as balance problems.

Drinking alcohol, particularly in excess, can certainly contribute to the chances of having a stroke. After a stroke, it’s probably best to avoid using alcohol. If alcohol is affecting your health but you’re struggling to quit, it may be time to reach out for help. The Recovery Village provides a full continuum of care that helps clients safely detox from alcohol and learn strategies for lifelong health and recovery. Contact us today to learn more about treatment plans and programs that can work well for your situation.

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Editor – Jonathan Strum
Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor's in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD
Dr. Jessica Pyhtila is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist based in Baltimore, Maryland with practice sites in inpatient palliative care and outpatient primary care at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Read more

Hillbom, M., Numminen, H. “Alcohol and stroke: pathophysiologic mechanisms“>Alcohol […]ic mechanisms.” Neuroepidemiology, 1998. Accessed August 14, 2021.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Types of Stroke.” August 2, 2021. Accessed August 14, 2021.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Stroke Facts“>Stroke Facts.” May 25, 2021. Accessed August 14, 2021.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Behaviors That Increase Risk for Stroke.” January 31, 2020. Accessed August 14, 2021. “Drug Interaction Report: Ethanol and Aspirin“>Drug Int[…]l and Aspirin.” Accessed August 14, 2021.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.