While the benefits of a daily glass of red wine has long been touted as helping to reduce the risk of heart disease, resent results from on ongoing study suggests that drinking in moderation can also help to reduce the risk of stroke in women.
Founded in 1976 by Dr. Frank Speizer, the Nurses’ Health Study was originally formed to examine the long term effects of oral contraceptives on women’s health. In the years since the original study, the Nurses’ Health Study has expanded to also include the examination of hormone preparation and dietary patterns on women’s health. Nurses were chosen as the subject of the study because their knowledge of medical terminology would allow them to accurately respond to the technically-worded questionnaires that were used to track the study’s results. Since its inception, the Nurses’ Study has tracked the health of over 80,000 women over the last 30-plus years.
By examining the health records of 83,578 women who were involved in the Nurses’ Health Study between 1980 and 2006, researchers determined that women who consumed a glass of wine, mixed drink, or beer daily had less of a chance of suffering a stroke than women who did not drink at all.
While scientists still do not know conclusively how alcohol positively affects the risk of stroke, moderate drinking appears to increase the body’s production of the good type of cholesterol, known as high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Blood clots cause ischemic strokes (the most common form of stroke), and since HDL has been linked to reducing the risk of blood clots, less blood clots means fewer strokes.
Researchers are quick to warn, however, how easy it can be to cross the line between a healthy amount to drink and drinking too much. Heavy drinking has even been linked to an increased risk of stroke in patients. Meeting the one drink a day the study recommends means consuming no more than 1.5 ounces of an 80 proof distilled spirit, five ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer.
In addition to decreasing the risk of stroke in women, moderate alcohol consumption has also been shown to reduce the risk of gallstones and diabetes.
Timothy Lemke is a freelance writer living in Oregon who regularly contributes to the blog of Dr. Bruno da Costa, a dentist in Beaverton.
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