Health Care

Vast study finds one drink a day could increase stroke risk

Vast study finds one drink a day could increase stroke risk”

Even light-to-moderate drinking increases blood pressure and the chances of having a stroke, according to a large genetic study in The Lancet, countering previous claims that one or two drinks a day could be protective. Even moderate alcohol consumption increases the chances of having a stroke.

Also, one or two drinks a day has previously been associated with a lower risk of stroke and heart attacks, but it was never clear whether the alcohol itself was improving health, or that non-drinkers had cardiovascular problems. It had been thought that low levels of alcohol consumption might have a protective effect against stroke, as well as other diseases and conditions.

People with these genetic variants are known to drink less - a situation confirmed by the latest study - but who has these genetic variants is random, meaning they can appear in people regardless of their social situation or health. For those with the variants, drinking alcohol can result in quickly turning red, a fast heart rate, nausea or headaches.

So, if a group of 100 non-drinkers started drinking a glass or two every day, there would be an extra two strokes - a small increase. Now researchers say that in the case of stroke, even low levels of alcohol consumption are bad news.

Experts said people should limit their alcohol consumption.

In the US, about 140,000 people die each year from stroke, according to the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention.

Because the variants have specific and large effects on alcohol, but do not effect other lifestyle factors such as diet, smoking, economic status or education, they can be used by scientists to nail down causal effects of alcohol intake.

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They are therefore predisposed to drink less.

Because such gene variations occur randomly, the researchers were able to design the equivalent of a randomized study.

In a journal commentary, the authors called for stricter controls on alcohol, saying its risks have been underestimated.

"The claims that alcohol has some magical, protective fix. has no particularly serious scientific basis", said study co-senior author Richard Peto, University of Oxford, U.K., the AP reported. "Our genetic analyses have helped us understand the cause-and-effect relationships".

The researchers, from Peking University, the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and the University of Oxford, say they discovered the impact of alcohol on stroke by following 500,000 Chinese people for 10 years. The genetic variants that decreased alcohol intake also decreased blood pressure and stroke risk.

Professor Zhengming Chen, co-author from the Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, says: "There are no protective effects of moderate alcohol intake against stroke".

Tim Chico, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Sheffield, said whether the increased risk of stroke from drinking makes a meaningful difference to people will depend on their underlying risk - which is based on their age, weight, whether they smoke and other factors.

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