Modest alcohol consumption attenuates stroke risk in young women

Young women who drink one or two units of alcohol a day are less likely to suffer an ischemic stroke than teetotallers or heavier drinkers

By | January 12, 2001

A US study has showed that young women who drink one or two units of alcohol a day are less likely to suffer an ischemic stroke than teetotallers or heavier drinkers (Stroke 2001, 32: 77-83).

Ann Malarcher and colleagues used data from the Stroke Prevention in Young Women study — a population-based case-control study of patients admitted to all 59 hospitals in the greater Baltimore–Washington area. Malarcher's team matched 224 women who had suffered a first cerebral infarction with 292 healthy women of similar age and location. All women were interviewed to assess their lifetime alcohol consumption, as well as consumption and beverage type in the previous year, week and day.

The researchers found that compared with non-drinkers (referent), women who drank fewer than 12 grams of alcohol per day had a lower risk of ischemic stroke (odds ratio 0.57), as did those who consumed 12 to 24 grams per day (odds ratio 0.38). For those who drank more than 24 grams per day, the odds ratio for stroke was comparable to that of non-drinkers. Analysis of beverage type (beer, wine, liquor) indicated a cardioprotective effect for wine consumption in the previous year; odds ratios for drinking <12 g/week, between 12 g/week and 12 g/day, and >12 g/day were 0.58, 0.55, and 0.92, respectively. "Women who drank in the past week, and whose average intake for the week was two alcoholic drinks a day, had an almost 60% lower stroke risk than those who never drank," says Malarcher. "Wine appeared to have a beneficial effect, while beer and liquor were not as strongly related to stroke risk."

"The relationship between alcohol and stroke risk had not been explored among young adults, who are more likely to have different patterns of alcohol consumption than older adults," notes Malarcher. The team say their findings "indicate that the National Stroke Association's Prevention Guidelines on alcohol use apply to young adults: drinking in moderation (up to 2 drinks per day) can be recommended for those who drink alcohol and who have no health contraindications." However, they also point out that alcohol use should not be encouraged for those who do not already drink.

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