Alcohol and risk for ischemic stroke in men: the role of drinking patterns and usual beverage

Ann Intern Med. 2005 Jan 4;142(1):11-9. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-142-1-200501040-00007.


Background: The association of light to moderate alcohol consumption with risk for ischemic stroke remains controversial, as do the roles of beverage type and drinking pattern.

Objective: To assess the association of drinking patterns and beverage type with risk for ischemic stroke among men.

Design: Prospective cohort study.

Setting: United States.

Participants: 38 156 male health professionals who were free of known cardiovascular disease or cancer at baseline in 1986.

Measurements: With a semi-quantitative food-frequency questionnaire, the authors individually ascertained consumption of regular and light beer, red and white wine, and liquor every 4 years. Alcohol consumption was categorized as light (0.1 to 9.9 g/d, or <1 drink daily), moderate (10.0 to 29.9 g/d, or 1 to 2 drinks daily), and heavier (> or =30.0 g/d, or > or =3 drinks daily).

Results: During a follow-up period of 14 years, 412 cases of incident ischemic stroke were documented. Compared with abstainers, light drinkers had a multivariate-adjusted relative risk of 0.99 (95% CI, 0.72 to 1.37), moderate drinkers had a multivariate-adjusted relative risk of 1.26 (CI, 0.90 to 1.76), and heavier drinkers had a multivariate-adjusted relative risk of 1.42 (CI, 0.97 to 2.09; P = 0.01 for trend). Consumption of 10.0 to 29.9 g of alcohol per day on 3 to 4 days per week appeared to be associated with the lowest risk (relative risk, 0.68 [CI, 0.44 to 1.05]). Red wine consumption was inversely associated with risk in a graded manner (P = 0.02 for trend), but other beverages were not. The apparently higher risk for ischemic stroke with heavier alcohol use appeared to be most pronounced for the embolic subtype.

Limitations: This study had limited power to examine specific drinking patterns and heavy drinking and could not assess risk for hemorrhagic stroke.

Conclusions: In this sample of male health professionals, light and moderate average alcohol use was generally not associated with an increased risk for ischemic stroke, although drinking pattern and beverage type modified this relation. Intake of more than 2 drinks per day may be associated with a higher risk for ischemic stroke.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Alcoholic Beverages*
  • Brain Ischemia / etiology*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Stroke / etiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires