Moderate Drinking Drops Stroke Risk in Women

Stroke risk reduced in women consuming light to moderate amounts of alcohol

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Women have another reason to raise their glasses. Moderate alcohol consumption appears to lessen the risk of stroke among women.

Previous research had suggested light or moderate drinking could cut the risk of heart disease, but there had not been much data available regarding the specific risk of stroke.

"Ask your doctor if a nightly glass of wine would benefit you."

Chiuve M. Jimenez, a lead researcher from the Boston University Medical Center, found that while light to moderate female drinkers appeared to be at a reduced risk of stroke, heavy drinkers may be at a greater risk of experiencing a stroke.

During the study researchers followed 83,578 women participating in the Nurses' Health Study. The participants, which were free of heart disease and cancer, were followed between 1980 and 2006.

They were asked to self report alcohol consumption at the beginning of the study and then every four years. Investigators checked every two years to determine the number of women who had experienced a stroke.

Women who averaged about 15 grams of alcohol daily, or about one drink a day, were found to have a 17 percent to 21 percent lower risk of stroke in comparison to non-drinkers. The risk was lowered for both the more common ischemic stroke, as well as the risk of hemorrhagic stroke. However, women who drank an average of more than 38 grams of alcohol a day, about three daily drinks, were found to be at an increased risk of stroke.

Women who consumed alcohol versus those that did not drink were found to have similar levels of physical activity, blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking status and family history.

Researchers had expected that women who drank more would have lower body mass indexes, higher cholesterol and be more likely to smoke, but that was not found to be the case.

Some previous research has suggested the risk of hemorrhagic stroke may increase with the consumption of any amount of alcohol, though researchers did not find this link, possibly because the participants were nurses and there were fewer heavy drinkers.

The research was recently published in journal Stroke.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 16, 2012
Last Updated:
March 18, 2012