Can Alcohol Cause a Stroke?

There are so many health conditions that are associated with alcohol abuse, and the majority of people doesn’t really well understand many of these links.

One of the ways you can cut down on the risk of developing certain serious health conditions is by reducing your alcohol intake. So what about alcohol and stroke? Is there a relationship here, and can alcohol cause a stroke? The following provides a general overview of some information about strokes, and also answers “can alcohol cause a stroke.”

With alcohol and stroke risk it’s important to be cautious. Alcohol is linked to all of the primary risk factors for stroke, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. You should exercise caution and drink in moderation because research shows that people who had more than two drinks a day for a long period of time were significantly more likely to suffer a stroke.

Before exploring the possible links between alcohol and stroke, what is a stroke? A stroke is often referred to as a brain attack, and it’s a situation that can occur at any time, and it describes a scenario where blood flow to a portion of the brain is cut off. When your brain cells aren’t receiving oxygen, they die. When someone suffers from a stroke, depending on where and how long they were affected, certain abilities may be diminished or lost, such as memory.

If you have only a small stroke, the results may be less detrimental and may just include weakness in an extremity. However, if you have a larger stroke, you could become paralyzed or lose the ability to speak. Some people completely recover after having a stroke, but many people who survive them ultimately have some kind of disability. In the U.S. stroke is the 5th leading cause of death, and it’s the number one cause of disability among adults in the U.S.

There are different kinds of stroke including a hemorrhagic stroke, in which an aneurysm or weakened blood vessel leaks or bursts and this type is the least common, but also the deadliest. There’s also something called an ischemic stroke, where a blood clot blocks a blood vessel that carries blood to the brain. There’s also something called a transient ischemic attack or TIA, which has stroke-like symptoms but isn’t necessarily the same as a full-blown stroke. There are varying risk factors for having a stroke, but what about the relationship between alcohol and stroke? Can alcohol cause a stroke?

Many risk factors are linked to the likelihood of having a stroke. Some of these include:

  • High blood pressure is one of the top risk factors for stroke, and it contributes to more than half of all strokes.
  • Diabetes doubles the risk of having a stroke.
  • People who are overweight are at a higher risk of having a stroke.
  • Something called atrial fibrillation which is a situation where you have an irregular heartbeat can increase the chances of having a stroke by as much as five times.
  • Liver damage can cause your liver to stop making certain substances that help in the clotting of blood, so this can increase the risk of stroke.

What’s important to realize with all of the above risk factors is the fact that they can all also be linked to alcohol, which is why there is a link between alcohol and stroke. Can alcohol cause a stroke? Yes, in many ways alcohol can increase the chances of having a stroke.

Related Topic: Does alcohol lower blood pressure

For example, alcohol can cause your blood pressure to be too high, it can contribute to diabetes, and it can also be a contributor to being overweight. Alcohol is also related to atrial fibrillation and liver damage.

Specifically, research has also shown that people who are middle-aged and drink have a 1/3 higher risk for stroke and people classified as heavy drinkers have a higher chance of suffering a stroke at a younger age.

So what is excessive drinking in terms of alcohol and stroke? In one particular study, it was shown as having more than two drinks a day. People who had more than two drinks a day, as compared to very light drinkers who had half a drink a day, had a 34 percent higher risk of stroke, and their stroke was five years earlier on average. This shows that alcohol is a very significant risk factor for stroke.

The current recommendation for people who are concerned about alcohol and stroke is that you shouldn’t exceed more than two drinks a day, and less is typically better. However, cutting out alcohol altogether doesn’t really seem to help lower the risk of stroke beyond a point.

Another thing to consider with alcohol and stroke is whether or not you can drink alcohol after having a stroke. First, if you’re on certain medicines such as blood thinners it’s probably best to avoid alcohol, and you should speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

Also, people who have had a stroke may be more susceptible to the negative effects of alcohol, such as sleep or balance problems.

There are other reasons you should avoid alcohol after a stroke including the fact that alcohol can make it tough to maintain a healthy weight, it can make you dehydrated, and it can make mood swings and depression worse.

So, can alcohol cause a stroke? Drinking alcohol, particularly in excess can certainly contribute to the chances of having a stroke. Following a stroke, it’s also probably best to avoid alcohol.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a 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 provider.

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