A large study in China suggests heavy alcohol consumption may increase the risk of stroke in men and the researchers therefore recommend that this group be targeted for prevention strategies.
Published in the latest issue of the Annals of Neurology, the study involved 64 338 men aged 40 and over who participated in a national hypertension survey in 1991, when none of them had ever suffered from stroke.
Researchers followed up on the men in 1999 and 2000, and found that 3 434 had had strokes and of these, 1 848 had died.
Drinkers showed 30% higher mortality
Further analysis showed the risk of stroke incidence was 22% higher and risk of mortality 30% higher among men who drank the most - or at least 35 drinks a week - compared with non-drinkers.
"Alcohol consumption was significantly related to increased stroke incidence and mortality," said the researchers from the United States and China.
The survey comes as commercial alcohol production in China has soared more than 50-fold per capita since 1952, with alcohol dependence moving from ninth to the third most prevalent form of mental illness, according to the report.
Stroke leading cause of death
Stroke is the leading cause of death in China and accounts for more than 20 percent of mortality among men.
Although the survey involved only Chinese, the findings were likely to be applicable to men of other ethnicities, the researchers wrote.
After taking into account factors such as age, body mass index and geographic variation, they found the risk of stroke was higher among those who drank more.
Increased alcohol, increased risk
The relative stroke risk was 0.92% for participants who had one to six drinks per week compared to non-drinkers, 1.02% for those who consumed seven to 20 drinks per week and 1.22% for those consuming more than 21 drinks per week.
"Our study suggests that Chinese men who consume 21 or more drinks per week have a greater risk for stroke than non-drinkers or those consuming fewer drinks per week," they wrote.
"Alcohol reduction among those who consume more than 21 drinks per week may reduce risk of stroke in Chinese men." - (Reuters)
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