Stroke risk may double in first hour after a drink

Long day at work? Stressed about paying your bills? How tempting, at such times, to reach for a drink....

If that sounds like you, here’s some sobering news from a study published online in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Assn.: The risk of stroke appears to double in the hour after consuming alcohol.

After interviewing 390 ischemic stroke patients about their drinking patterns within three days after their stroke, researchers concluded that the risk of ischemic stroke is 2.3 times higher in the hour after alcohol is consumed than it is during periods of no alcohol consumption. (An ischemic stroke — the most common type — is one where blood supply to the brain is cut off because of a blood clot.)

The risk was the same regardless of type of alcohol — wine, beer or distilled spirits. And the increased risk was seen even with a single drink.

However, the study also found that the higher risk is short-lived, said Elizabeth Mostofsky, lead author of the study and a doctoral candidate at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Even though the risk of stroke was highest in the hour after drinking, it was lowered when alcohol had been consumed earlier than that. Among those who drank, the chance of a stroke was 30% lower when moderate amounts of alcohol had been consumed more than 24 hours earlier, compared with no alcohol intake at all. (“Moderate” is defined as no more than one drink a day for a woman and two for a man.)

Moderate drinkers may breathe easier, but they would do well to think about where they do their drinking. A recent survey by research firm Mintel found that among alcohol drinkers, a significantly greater number of people drink at home than they do in public venues. And when people do drink at home, they consume almost twice the number of drinks in an average month than they do in restaurants or bars (10 versus 5.7).