Moderate consumption of alcohol may lower women's risk of suffering a stroke, claims a new 26-year research. The data collected for the study purposes was of the Nurses' Health Study, a large research on women's health that began in 1976.
The study that involved 84,000 participants from the United States revealed that ladies, who drank about a half glass of alcoholic beverages (particularly wine) every day, were 17 per cent less likely to be at stroke risk. Women who drank about one glass of wine a day were 21 per cent less likely to have a stroke than those who did not drink at all. However, the risk of stroke did not diminish with the intake of more alcohol. In other words, those drinking more than one glass of wine on a daily basis were at no less risk of stroke when compared to women who drank one glass.
To come up with these results, scientists at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, looked at women who, at the beginning of the study, were between 30 and 55 years of age and did not have any cardiovascular problems. About 30 per cent of women said that they abstained from drinking alcohol completely, and 35 per cent said that they drank very little (less than half of a glass of wine per day); 37 per cent consumed alcohol in moderate amounts (about one glass of wine or beer a day), and only 11 per cent of the participants reported drinking more than one or two glasses of alcohol on a daily basis.
There were 2,171 cases of strokes over the course of the study. Most were ischemic strokes, which happen when blood flow to the brain is being blocked, therefore preventing the brain of receiving oxygen. It was found that of the 25,000 women who reported consuming no alcohol at all, 1,045 suffered a stroke. Among the 29,000 women who drank very little, 552 suffered a stroke, and 341 women out of the 20,000 who drank in moderation had a stroke.
The scientists noted that the small number of heavy drinkers in the study did not allow them to draw definitive conclusions about stroke risk in this group. In general, increasing alcohol consumption was associated with smoking and having hypertension, and also with being more active physically and having a lower BMI (body mass index).
So why would drinking alcohol reduce the risk of a stroke? According to Dr. Monik Jumenez, the epidemiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital, and a principal researcher of the study, there are components in alcohol that prevent blood clots from formation and cholesterol from building up in the arteries, both of which are linked to stroke. As a result, fewer blood clots - fewer strokes. However, higher levels of alcohol consumption may increase the risk of high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation, which are major risk factors for stroke.
The study is published in the March, 2012 edition of the journal Stroke.