Alcohol and Increased Risk of Stroke | Wellness Retreat

Alcohol and Increased Risk of Stroke

Many people enjoy a cocktail, a glass of wine, or a can of beer after a particularly difficult day or on the weekends. Some people, of course, over-consume those products. Some of the dangers of alcohol are well-known and visible. 

Alcohol use and abuse can contribute to several adverse health effects. There is some evidence that suggests alcohol abuse can be linked to strokes. Some people may continue to drink while knowing the risks associated with alcohol consumption. 

In some cases, people may continue drinking alcoholic beverages despite their negative consequences. For people who cannot control their alcohol intake, seeking professional assistance can be helpful. 

The Dangers of Alcohol

Let’s start our discussion by examining exactly how alcohol affects the body.  The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has a helpful page on this topic

Here is a summary of alcohol’s effect on the body:

  • Brain – Drinking affects the communication pathways in the brain and can make it more challenging to think clearly, impact coordination, and change a person’s mood and behavior. 
  • Heart – Prolonged or excessive drinking can be damaging to the heart in several ways. It increases the chances of stroke, high blood pressure, and irregular heartbeat. It can also lead to cardiomyopathy, a condition characterized by a stretch and drooping of the heart muscle. 
  • Liver – This is the organ most known to have problems with heavy drinking. It’s the job of the liver to process the alcohol a person consumes. When they drink too much, it can lead to problems such as cirrhosis and fibrosis. Alcohol also causes fat to build up in the liver, known as steatosis.
  • Pancreas – When alcohol affects the pancreas, it causes the organ to produce toxic chemicals. These chemicals impact the pancreas by causing inflammation and swelling, known as pancreatitis. The function of the pancreas is also affected, resulting in an inability to digest food properly. 
  • Cancer – There’s a strong connection between the drinking of alcohol and the increase in risk of developing certain cancers. This applies even to those who only have a drink a day or who only occasionally binge drink. This includes liver cancer, which may be expected given the toll alcohol takes on the liver, but it also includes head and neck cancer, breast cancer, and esophageal cancer. 
  • Immune System – Alcohol has two levels of effect on the immune system. Those who drink regularly have a sustained weakening of the immune system, leaving them open to catching more illnesses and recovering more slowly from them. Consuming too much at one time also lowers the immune system’s efficiency for up to 24 hours. 

What are Strokes?

Now that we’ve seen how alcohol affects the body let’s see what conditions within the body lead to a stroke. To understand what’s happening, we can look at another name for stroke, cerebrovascular event. We can tell by the compounding of cerebral and vascular that stroke probably has something to do with the brain and the cardiovascular system. 

There are two different types of stroke. Both occur when there’s an unwanted interaction between the brain and its blood vessels. The first, ischemic stroke, is the most common. A blood clot or other blockage in an ischemic stroke prevents blood from getting to the brain. Deprived of this vital fluid, brain cells quickly begin to die.

The second type of stroke is a hemorrhagic stroke. When this type of stroke occurs, it’s because a blood vessel has ruptured and is leaking blood into the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes are less common. 


The symptoms someone experiences during a stroke depend on the type of stroke and the part of the brain it affects. However, there are some common signs that a person may be having a stroke.

Here are some of the symptoms a person may experience while having a stroke:

  • They go suddenly numb or experience muscle weakness. With strokes, this often only affects one side of the body.
  • They have trouble speaking or understanding others. Like numbness and weakness,  this comes on very suddenly in stroke victims.
  • They suddenly have trouble seeing. This can occur in one eye or both.
  • They suddenly develop a loss of balance or decrease in coordination without explanation.
  • They experience a sudden and severe headaches.

Can Drinking Cause a Stroke?

You may have heard that a moderate amount of alcohol is good for the cardiovascular system. Yet we saw above that drinking too much can harm the heart, including increasing the risk of a stroke. We can see how these relationships play out thanks to a study that examined alcohol use and stroke risk

The study showed that drinking in moderation showed a slight reduction in ischemic stroke risk, which means it prevented the type of stroke that occurs from a blood clot. However, heavy drinking increases the chances of both types of stroke. The increase was stronger in hemorrhagic strokes, which are the type that is caused by broken blood vessels in the brain. 

Stroke and Alcohol Withdrawal

Another of the dangers we looked at from alcohol use is reduced immune system response. What happens when someone who was a heavy drinker quits drinking and finds themselves going through withdrawals? Like alcohol use, withdrawals place a heavy load on the body as it’s trying to recover from the damage that’s been done to it. 

This effect carries over into health outcomes from someone who has suffered a stroke. One study shows that alcohol withdrawals worsen nearly every possible outcome in stroke victims. They spend more, stay in the hospital longer, have more complications, and are more likely to die from their stroke that those not going through withdrawals. 

Should You Drink Alcohol After a Stroke?

We’ve seen how alcohol can increase the risk of having a stroke. If a person already has one, drinking more alcohol after the fact can increase their chances of having another. In addition, alcohol can make some aspects of recovery more complex due to its effect on the brain. For example, difficulties with speaking, thinking, coordination, and fatigue may all be impacted by alcohol use

Get Help with Wellness Retreat Recovery

There are many downsides to drinking uncontrollably. This is especially true for those who have had a stroke or are at an increased risk of having a stroke. For those people, we’re here to help. Wellness Retreat Recovery can help people overcome their alcohol addiction and reduce the chances that they’ll experience a stroke or that their health outcomes after a stroke will be worse. 

Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help.