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The Links Between Alcohol and Stroke

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

May 21, 2024

Table of Contents

Consistently consuming excessive amounts of alcohol can increase the likelihood of experiencing a stroke. This is due to the effects of alcohol in triggering various health issues that amplify stroke risk. Adhere to recommended alcohol consumption guidelines to mitigate this risk.

In this guide to alcoholism and stroke, we address questions that include “Can alcohol cause a stroke” and “Can excessive drinking cause a stroke”. You can also discover how to reduce your alcohol intake and how to engage with evidence-based treatment if you need immediate assistance with alcoholism and stroke.

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Alcohol and Stroke Risk

Extensive research indicates that high alcohol consumption significantly elevates the risk of stroke. Alcoholism stroke risk is attributed to alcohol’s contribution to various medical conditions that are known stroke risk factors:

  • High blood pressure: High blood pressure is a leading risk factor for stroke. Excessive alcohol intake can result in elevated blood pressure, increasing the chance of stroke from alcohol.
  • Diabetes and stroke risk: The risk of stroke is doubled in individuals with diabetes. Alcohol affects how your body reacts to insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar, potentially leading to type 2 diabetes.
  • Weight and stroke risk: Being overweight is a stroke risk factor. Alcoholic beverages are often high in calories, and frequent heavy drinking can make it challenging to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Atrial fibrillation from alcohol: Heavy drinking can induce atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat condition. Atrial fibrillation quintuples the risk of stroke due to its potential to cause blood clots in the heart, which can travel to the brain and cause a stroke.
  • Liver damage and stroke risk: Excessive alcohol can damage the liver, impairing its ability to produce blood clotting substances. This increases the risk of a stroke caused by bleeding in the brain.

These connections between alcohol and risk of stroke highlight the importance of moderating alcohol consumption to reduce stroke risk.

Alcohol and Stroke Symptoms

A stroke, often referred to as a brain attack, is an urgent medical condition that can arise suddenly. It is characterized by the interruption of blood flow to a part of the brain. When brain cells are deprived of oxygen, they can perish. The impact of a stroke depends on its location in the brain and the duration for which the brain is deprived of blood flow. This can lead to varying degrees of impairment, with potential effects on functions like memory and motor skills.

The severity of a stroke’s impact can range widely. A minor stroke might result in temporary weakness in a limb, whereas a major stroke can lead to more severe consequences, such as paralysis or loss of speech. Recovery outcomes vary. While some individuals fully recover from a stroke, others may experience lasting disabilities. In the United States alone, about 795,000 people experience a stroke each year.

Strokes can be classified into several types, each with unique characteristics:

  • Hemorrhagic stroke: This type occurs when a blood vessel in the brain leaks or ruptures, often due to an aneurysm. Although it is the least common, it’s the most severe type of stroke.
  • Ischemic stroke: This is caused by a blood clot obstructing a blood vessel leading to the brain. It is the most prevalent type, accounting for about 87% of all strokes.
  • TIA (transient ischemic attack): Also known as a mini-stroke, a TIA presents with stroke-like symptoms. However, it does not cause permanent damage like a full-blown stroke.

Understanding these types of strokes and their potential impact can help in making informed health decisions and recognizing early warning signs.

Key indicators of a stroke may suddenly emerge, such as:

  • Unexpected numbness or weakness, particularly on one side of the body
  • Vision difficulties in one or both eyes
  • Intense headache with no known cause
  • Challenges in comprehending or producing speech
  • Difficulty in walking or maintaining balance and coordination

These symptoms often appear without warning. Seek immediate medical attention to minimize the impact of a stroke.

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What Type of Stroke Does Alcohol Cause?

Alcohol consumption is linked to an increased risk of all major types of stroke. That said, the relationship varies with the amount of alcohol consumed. Light and moderate alcohol consumption has been inversely associated with ischemic stroke, which is the type caused by an obstruction within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. Conversely, heavy drinking has been associated with an increased risk of both ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes. Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a weakened blood vessel ruptures. Alcohol can contribute to conditions like high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, and diabetes, which are significant risk factors for stroke

Preventing and Treating Alcohol-Related Stroke

Preventing an alcohol-related stroke involves a multi-pronged approach that focuses on both lifestyle and behavioral changes. Key strategies include:

  • Moderate alcohol consumption: Limiting alcohol intake to moderate levels is a fundamental step. For many people, this means no more than one drink a day for women and two for men. Abstaining from alcohol altogether is advisable for those with a history of excessive drinking or alcohol-related health issues.
  • Healthy diet and regular exercise: Stick to a diet that includes lots of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Minimize processed foods. A balanced diet combined with regular physical activity can significantly reduce stroke risk. Exercise improves cardiovascular health and helps in maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Regular health check-ups: Regular medical check-ups help monitor blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and other stroke risk factors. Managing these through medication or lifestyle changes can prevent the onset of a stroke.
  • Smoking cessation: Avoiding tobacco use in all forms is a vital component in stroke prevention. Smoking exacerbates the harmful effects of alcohol on the cardiovascular system.

Treatment for an alcohol-related stroke depends on the type of stroke (ischemic or hemorrhagic) and the extent of brain involvement. Key treatment methods include:

  • Emergency medical intervention: Immediate medical attention may involve clot-busting drugs for ischemic strokes or surgery for hemorrhagic strokes.
  • Rehabilitation: Post-stroke rehabilitation is central to effective recovery. This includes physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy, tailored to the person’s specific needs.
  • Alcohol dependence treatment: Addressing alcohol abuse or dependence is integral to stroke recovery. This may involve counseling, support groups, and sometimes medication-assisted treatment to help manage dependency issues.
  • Ongoing support and monitoring: Post-stroke care often requires continuous monitoring and support to manage long-term effects and prevent recurrence. This includes regular medical check-ups, lifestyle modifications, and support for mental health issues that may arise due to the stroke or alcohol use disorder.
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Get Treatment for Alcohol Addiction at Renaissance Recovery

The abuse of alcohol impacts body and mind, often leading to addiction in the form of alcohol use disorder. While incurable, this chronic condition responds favorably to the right blend of treatments. We can help you achieve and maintain long-term sobriety at Renaissance Recovery Center in Huntington Beach, CA.

The outpatient nature of our treatment programs means you can access affordable, flexible addiction treatment while continuing to meet your everyday obligations. Those who need more structure and support can choose from a variety of more intensive outpatient treatment programs at our beachside facility in Southern California.

All Renaissance treatment programs are highly personalized, involving a blend of the following therapies:

  • Talk therapies like CBT and DBT
  • MAT
  • Individual and group counseling
  • Holistic treatments
  • Family therapy
  • Aftercare planning

When you are committed to tackling alcohol addiction head-on, get immediate assistance by calling Renaissance at 866.330.9449.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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