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The Sobriety :60 spotlights alcohol use as a stroke risk factor

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The Sobriety :60 features a minute on alcohol-related health issues. The fourth episode examines alcohol's role in the leading cause of long-term disability in the U.S. -- strokes.

Stroke disables more people in the United States than breast cancer or the war in Afghanistan. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 800,000 people in the United States have a stroke every year. Strokes (either ischemic or hemorrhagic) are the most common causes of serious long-term disability. Ninety percent of strokes are ischemic, where a clot blocks blood flow to the brain.

Additional statistics from the National Stroke Association reveal:
•Stroke kills almost 130,000 Americans each year—that’s 1 in every 19 deaths.
•On average, one American dies from stroke every 4 minutes.
•Fewer than 20 percent of hospitals are stroke certified.
•One fourth of strokes are recurrent strokes.
•Stroke costs the United States an estimated $38.6 billion each year.

Stroke risk is heightened by even a small amount of alcohol according to a 2013 study (see related article) posted on Canadian medical news website Tele-Management. Just one drink of alcohol was found to double stroke risk immediately after consuming the beverage. After two hours, the risk of stroke is still heightened 1.6 times when compared to the risk before having the drink.

And alcohol-related stroke dangers aren't just for seniors or the middle-aged. The University of California at San Francisco has now linked stroke among younger adults to alcohol use disorders. "When a young person has a stroke, it is probably much more likely that the cause of their stroke is something other than traditional risk factors," according to one of the lead researchers in the study reported in the journal Stroke (see related article).

The researchers said long-term changes in the heart as a result of alcohol abuse or the disease of alcoholism may put younger users at higher-than-average risk earlier in life. "Patients aged younger than 55 years who experience a stroke should be routinely screened and counseled regarding substance abuse. One in five of strokes last year involved drinking.”

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