Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Another Good Excuse to Have a Drink
I love a little wine before dinner. Isn't it great when you find out that something you like to do is actually good for you?
Light to moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a lower risk of strokes in women, both ischemic (when a vessel is blocked) and hemorrhagic (when it bleeds). The research was published in Stroke.
The lead author told Medscape Medical News that while alcohol consumption in moderation has been consistently associated with lower risk of heart disease, there has been a question about whether it was true for stroke.
The investigators followed almost 86,000 women -- a very large sample size -- in the Nurses' Health Study, all never diagnosed as having cardiovascular disease, from 1980 to 2006. The women provided information about their lifestyle and reported any "stroke events" every two years during that period. The researchers concluded that women who drank low to moderate amounts of alcohol had a significantly lower risk for any kind of stroke than did women who never drank.
The researchers adjusted the results for a large number of variables, including physical activity, smoking, body mass index, diabetes, hypertension, history of heart disease, postmenopausal status, hormone therapy, high cholesterol, highest level of education, and many others. In short, that means they analyzed the data to be sure that these factors didn't play a role in the findings.
The researchers speculate that alcohol may reduce risk by preventing blood clots and promoting HDL, or "good" cholesterol. It's important to note that drinking beyond moderation was not associated with a lower risk of stroke. Higher levels of alcohol can raise blood pressure and contribute to atrial fibrillation, which both are risk factors for stroke.
What about men? While this study involved only women, other studies have shown that men benefit from light to moderate alcohol consumption, too.
- Barbara Bronson Gray, RN, MN
- Barbara Bronson Gray is an award-winning writer and a nationally recognized health expert. She's a regular contributor to HealthDay and her writing appears in U.S. News & World Report, WebMD, Health.com, MSN Healthy Living, Center for Advancing Health and a wide range of other publications and websites. Barbara has worked in hospitals, as a nurse and as an administrator, led a major healthcare magazine, created and managed a website for WebMD, and served as a leader of global communications for Amgen, the world's largest biotech company. She continues to write and speak about healthcare and has a communications consultancy. Follow her on Twitter: @bbgrayrn.