Alcohol can increase the risk of a stroke. Drinking no more than 2 standard drinks can reduce your risk.
Stroke is when an artery in the brain becomes blocked, or bleeds. This results in the blood supply being disrupted in the brain. This causes loss of function within the brain ultimately affecting things such as movement, vision and swallowing. Whilst having an immediate effect on a person, stroke can also cause long term disability affecting mobility and functionality. 1 2
There are two types of stroke:
1. Ischemic stroke
An ischemic stroke is due to a sudden blockage of a blood vessel in the brain. 1
2. Haemorrhagic stroke
An haemorrhagic stroke is caused by a break in the wall of a blood vessel causing blood to leak into the brain. 1
Alcohol consumption above recommended Guidelines has been linked to increase the risk of stroke. Alcohol consumption increases the risk of both ischemic and haemorrhagic strokes. 3 4 5 6 The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare advise that stroke is preventable and reducing modifiable risky behaviours, such as alcohol consumption, could prevent many strokes. 1
Alcohol can increase the risk of high blood pressure.
Blood pressure is the measurement of the force blood places on blood vessel walls as it travels throughout the body. High blood pressure can cause stroke as this places extra pressure on the blood vessels. This can cause the blood vessels to weaken or breakdown, which can lead to stroke. 7
When cholesterol builds up this can cause plaque to line the blood vessels. High blood pressure can cause this plaque, and blood clots, to break off the artery walls and block a brain artery causing stroke. 7
Blood pressure is affected by the amount of alcohol consumed. For example, research has shown that high blood pressure is more common among people who drink more than 3 standard drinks per day. Studies have found if alcohol consumption is decreased, there was a fall in blood pressure. 2
Alcohol can effect blood clotting.
Clotting is required to stop bleeding, and regularly occurs in the body. Alcohol can affect the processes required to clot the blood. The effect of alcohol on clotting can increase the risk of haemorrhagic stroke. 2
In WA alcohol-related stroke has increased since 2007. In 2011, 2 people per week were admitted into hospital for alcohol-related stroke. The age group most affected by stroke (alcohol-related) are those aged between 45 and 64 years. 8
3 people per month die from alcohol-related stroke (2011 data) in WA. 9
Evidence proves that alcohol can increase your risk of stroke.
In order to remain at low risk of alcohol-caused stroke, health experts recommend having no more than two standard drinks on any day.
1 AIHW, Senes S. How we manage stroke in Australia. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2006;AIHW cat. No. CVD 3
2 National Health and Medical Research Council. (2001). Australian Alcohol Guidelines. Health risks and benefits
3 Thrift A, Donnan G, McNeil J: Heavy drinking, but not moderate or intermediate drinking, increases the risk of intra-cerebral hemorrhage.Epidemiol1999, 10:307-312
4 Patra, Jayadeep; Taylor, Benjamin; Irving, Hyacinth; Roerecke, Michael; Baliunas, Dolly; et al. 2010. Alcohol consumption and the risk of morbidity and mortality for different stroke types - a systematic review and meta-analysis BMC Public Health10 (2010): 258.
5 Caicoya M, Rodriguez T, Corrales C, Cuello R, Lasheras C: Alcohol and stroke. A community case control study in Astrurias, Spain.J Clin Epidemiol1999, 52:677-684.
6 Donahue RP, Abbott RD, Reed DM, Yano K: Alcohol and haemorrhagic stroke: the Honolulu Heart program.JAMA1986, 255:2311-2314.
7 Stroke Foundation. High blood pressure and stroke. Retrieved from: https://strokefoundation.com.au/prevent-stroke/risk-factors/high-blood-pressure-and-stroke/
8 Health status report on stroke (alcohol related) hospitalisations (alcohol-caused) for the State. Epidemiology Branch (PHI) in collaboration with the Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information (CRC-SI). Generated using data from the WA Hospital Morbidity Data Collection. Proportion of drug and alcohol related deaths identified by aetiological fractions. Accessed Wednesday, 30 April 2014 by Russell Bridle (Drug and Alcohol Office).
9 Health status report on stroke (alcohol related) deaths (alcohol-caused) for the State. Epidemiology Branch (PHI) in collaboration with the Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information (CRC-SI). Generated using data from the WA Death Registrations which includes data from the WA Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths and Australian Bureau of Statistics. Proportion of drug and alcohol related deaths identified by aetiological fractions. Accessed Wednesday, 30 April 2014 by Russell Bridle (Drug and Alcohol Office).
Call the Alcohol and Drug Information Service on (08) 9442 5000 or 1800 198 024 toll free for country callers
For emergencies call the 000 emergency line.