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Research Summary

Does Alcohol Consumption Increase the Risk of Ischemic Stroke?

Prior studies of the association between alcohol consumption and ischemic stroke have produced inconsistent results and have limitations. To address these issues, researchers assessed alcohol intake and prevalence of incident ischemic stroke (412 cases identified) in 38,156 male health professionals, aged 40–75 years, over a 14-year period.

  • In analyses adjusted for potential confounders, the risk of ischemic stroke among drinkers versus that of nondrinkers increased as alcohol consumption increased (relative risk [RR] 1.0 for <1 drink per day, RR 1.3 for 1–2 drinks per day, and RR 1.4 for >2 drinks per day, P for trend=0.01). These findings were not significant when analyses were adjusted for hypertension.
  • In analyses adjusted for beverage type, the risk of ischemic stroke decreased with increasing red wine use, compared with no red wine use (P for trend=0.02). This finding was not significant when analyses also adjusted for hypertension. Other beverage types did not significantly affect risk.
  • The risk of ischemic stroke was lowest, though not statistically significant, in people who consumed 1–2 drinks on 3–4 days each week (RR 0.7 compared with those who abstained).


Although this study reported some benefit from red wine use, its clearest finding was the increase in risk of ischemic stroke with increasing alcohol consumption, starting at 1–2 drinks per day. The complexities associated with beverage type and pattern of use, as indicated in these findings, highlight the challenge in making recommendations about safer drinking.

Kevin L. Kraemer, MD, MSc


Mukamal KJ, Ascherio A, Mittleman MA, et al. Alcohol and risk for ischemic stroke in men: the role of drinking patterns and usual beverage. Ann Intern Med. 2005;142(1):11–19.