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Sunday, 16 December, 2001, 00:00 GMT
Sensible drinking 'prevents strokes'
Heavy drinking is a risk factor for stroke
Heavy drinking is a risk factor for stroke
Stroke experts are reminding people that sensible drinking could reduce their risk of suffering a stroke, in advance of the traditional season of excess.

In a new leaflet, the Stroke Association says small amounts of alcohol can protect against ischaemic strokes - caused by blood clots blocking arteries - which account for nine out of 10 cases of the brain attack.

The other 10 -11% of strokes are haemorrhagic, where bleeding is caused by burst blood vessels in or around the brain.

Alcohol does not protect against this kind of stroke, and even two to three units of alcohol a day can double or treble the risk of suffering them.

We know people like to have a drink over Christmas, but our message is to think sensibly and watch your limit

Eoin Redahan
Stroke Association
Heavy drinking is also a risk factor for all kinds of stroke.

Because of these risks, the Stroke Association recommends drinking "in moderation".

The Stroke Association leaflet quotes a Scottish study which followed 6,000 men over almost 20 years, and found those who drank five or more units a day were twice as likely to die from a stroke as those who did not drink.

Alcohol thins the blood, so can prevent clots forming. It may also affect the way cholesterol is carried in the bloodstream, reducing the risk of the build-up of fatty deposits in the blood vessel walls.

But larger amounts, especially if drunk in one go, increases blood pressure, the main risk factor for stroke.

Levels of homocysteine, a substance linked to hardening and furring of the arteries, also rise if large amounts of alcohol are drunk.

'Watch your limit'

Eoin Redahan of The Stroke Association said: "Drinking alcohol in moderation can help to reduce your risk of stroke.

"Binge-drinking is a big risk factor for stroke, increasing your chance of stroke by five times.

"Regular heavy drinking also increases the risk of stroke

"To help reduce your risk of stroke - watch your alcohol intake - that is no more than 2/3 units a day for women and 3/4 units a day for men. "

Mr Redahan added: "Don't drink every day and try to have at least a couple of alcohol-free days a week.

"If you have problems in controlling your intake, talk to your doctor.

"We know people like to have a drink over Christmas, but our message is to think sensibly and watch your limit," he said.

David Poley, head of policy for the Portman Group, said: "The reason we got involved is that this helps to spread information about the sensible use of alcohol, which is basically what we're trying to achieve here.

"The message is only drink in moderation - even at Christmas."

For a free copy of the factsheet contact; The Stroke Association, Northampton Resource Centre, 61-69 Derngate, Northampton NN1 1HD or call 01604 623 934 or 01604 623933.

See also:

05 Sep 01 | Health
Stroke prevention - for 50p a day
03 Aug 01 | Health
'Ice baths' help stroke patients
06 Jan 01 | Health
Alcohol 'cuts strokes in women'
01 Feb 00 | Health
Why people topple after a tipple
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