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According to a recent study, there is an association between the risks of heart attacks and strokes after drinking. The risk goes down after 24 hours and can even be protective for moderate drinking, but still remains high in cases of heavy drinking.

The study revealed what looks like a temporary higher risk of a stroke and/or heart attack in the hours after consuming an alcoholic drink. But within 24 hours of drinking, only a heavy intake of alcohol seems to cause a higher risk of a cardiovascular event.

Research done previously has discussed cardiovascular risks after moderate and heavy drinking, but imminent risks of consuming alcohol haven’t been very well documented.

This study is the first one to consolidate all available information in an attempt to learn more about the acute risk of heart attacks and strokes after drinking, and specifically the risks in the hours and days after drinking, plus the risks in the week after for varying amounts of alcohol consumed.

Researchers examined the data on almost 30,000 participants from 23 different studies on the risk of heart attacks and strokes after drinking in the succeeding hours and days.

Immediately after consuming alcohol, there are harmful as well as protective bodily responses. Within 1 to 3 hours, one dose of alcohol will increase heart rate as well as disrupt the heart’s usual pacing, however by 24 hours after drinking moderately there will be an improvement in blood flow and the lining function of blood vessels and reduced clotting.Having up to 6 drinks within a week was considered moderate drinking for the purposes of this study, and this was linked with an immediate higher risk of a cardiovascular event, but within one day this became protective and linked with a decreased risk of being stricken with a heart attack or stroke due to bleeds, and within the week after this amount of drinking was linked with a decreased risk of having a stroke due to clots.

But, heavy alcohol consumption was linked with a higher risk of having a stroke and heart attack at all times covered by the study: having 6 to 9 drinks in one day caused almost twice the risk and consuming 19 to 30 alcoholic beverages in a week increased the risk up to six times.

Heavy drinking for men is usually having 15+ drinks a week and for women, it would be 8+ drinks a week. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans in 2015 described moderate drinking as up to 2 drinks a day for men and for women, up to 1 drink a day.

The study reported that right after drinking alcohol, your blood pressure goes up and your blood platelets get stickier, which increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes after drinking. But if you regularly drink alcohol in small amounts, long term this seems to increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels, which is the “good cholesterol” and also lower your tendency to get blood clots.

The American Heart Association now recommends moderate drinking for those that already drink, but warns people that they shouldn’t start drinking. They also say that it is best for everyone to speak with their doctor about their risks and any benefits they could derive from the moderate consumption of alcohol.

If you or someone you love is experiencing cardiac problems, have tried unsuccessfully to cut back on your alcohol use and are ready to try an intensive outpatient program for alcohol abuse, please give us a call!

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