THURSDAY, March 8, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Light-to-moderate alcohol consumption might reduce stroke risk in women, new research suggests.
For the study, U.S. researchers examined data from nearly 84,000 women who were part of the Nurses' Health Study. The women had no evidence of cardiovascular disease or cancer at the time of enrollment and were followed for up to 26 years.
The women provided information about their diet, alcohol consumption, lifestyle habits and stroke occurrences. During the follow-up, there were 2,171 cases of stroke among the women, Monik Jimenez and colleagues from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston found.
About 30 percent of the women said they never drank alcohol, 35 percent said they were light drinkers, 37 percent said they were moderate drinkers, and 11 percent said they consumed more than the equivalent of one mixed drink per day.
Light drinking meant consuming less alcohol than what would be found in half a glass of wine daily, while moderate drinking meant an average of one-half to just over one glass of wine, one beer or one mixed drink daily, the study authors noted.
Women who were light or moderate drinkers had a lower risk of stroke than those who never drank, but this wasn't the case with higher levels of alcohol consumption, according to the study published online March 8 in the journal Stroke.
There are a number of ways that low-to-moderate alcohol consumption may reduce stroke risk, the researchers said in a hospital news release. Certain components of alcohol may prevent blood clots and cholesterol from accumulating in the arteries, both of which can lead to stroke.
But higher levels of alcohol consumption may increase the risk of high blood pressure and a heart rhythm disorder called atrial fibrillation, both of which are risk factors for stroke.
While the study uncovered an association between alcohol consumption and stroke risk in women, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about stroke.