A global study has found that high and moderate alcohol consumption was associated with increased risk of stroke.
The INTERSTROKE study, co-led by University of Galway, gathered data from almost 26,000 people across 27 countries, from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds and cardiovascular risk profiles.
“Overall, our findings indicate that high and moderate intakes of alcohols were associated with increased odds of stroke, while we found no convincing link between low intake and stroke,” said Professor Andrew Smyth, Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Galway.
An important feature of the report was its analysis of the socio-economic conditions behind the data gathered.
“The effects of alcohol intake are complex as they are linked with socioeconomic factors such as education and many lifestyle factors including smoking, diet and physical activity,” Professor Smith added.
The type of alcohol consumed was also examined. Predominant beer consumption was linked with a 21 per cent increase in stroke risk but this jumped to 73 per cent for an intracerebral haemorrhage (a stroke caused by internal bleeding).
By contrast, wine consumption was not linked with risk of stroke, with no increase or decrease. This might reflect a difference in risk based on the type of alcohol, or a difference in the social context of consumption of wine as opposed to beer.
The type of drinking was very important. Overall, binge drinking resulted in a much higher risk of stroke than lower level but more consistent drinking. For instance, seven drinks on one night posed more risk than one drink a night for seven nights.
Professor Martin O’Donnell, Professor of Neurovascular Medicine at University of Galway, co-led the study.
Professor O’Donnell said that “stroke is a leading cause of death and disability globally. In Ireland, approximately 7,500 people have a stroke, and around 2,000 of these people die. An estimated 30,000 people in Ireland live with disabilities as a result of stroke”.
The INTERSTROKE study stands out for the diversity of its participants said Professor Michelle Canavan, Established Professor of Older Adult Health.
“Most previous research was completed in high-income countries, with limited cultural diversity whereas the global INTERSTROKE study took a different approach by including participants from high, middle and lower income countries with varying levels of education and cardiovascular risk profiles”.
Based on the data gathered they suggest that “targeted interventions to manage high intake at population level may help reduce stroke risk particularly for males in these regions who are more likely to binge drink”.
INTERSTROKE aims to inform approaches to population-level prevention of stroke. It has been published in Neurology, the world’s most widely circulated and cited neurology journal.