Stroke, Women and Alcohol

A stroke happens when blood flow to a part of the brain stops. A stroke is sometimes called a brain attack. If blood flow is stopped for longer than a few seconds, the brain cannot get blood and oxygen. Brain cells can die, causing permanent damage. There are two major types of stroke: ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke. Ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain is blocked by a blood clot. Either a clot may form in an artery that is already very narrow and this is called a thrombotic stroke or a clot may break off from another place in the blood vessels of the brain, from some other part of the body, and travel up to the brain and this is called cerebral embolism/embolic stroke.

Ischemic strokes may also be caused by clogged arteries. Fat, cholesterol, and other substances collect on the artery walls, forming a sticky substance called plaque. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in part of the brain becomes weak and bursts open, causing blood to leak into the brain. High blood pressure is the number one risk factor for strokes. Besides that, diabetes, high cholesterol, family history of stroke, arterial fibrillation, obesity, smoking, drugs like cocaine, excess salt intake, heavy drinking and increasing age are the other reasons.

However, there also seems to be a different association of women with the alcohol. It can be said that light-to-moderate alcohol consumption is related with a lower risk of stroke in women. Low consumption is considered less than 4.9 grams daily (less than ½ glass of wine per day). Moderate consumption is considered 5 to 14.9 grams daily (½ to 1 ½ glasses of wine, one serving of a mixed drink, or one beer). Women who consume low to moderate amounts of alcohol have a lower risk of total stroke compared to women who never drink. Alcohol may have components to prevent blood clots and cholesterol from building up in the arteries, both of which can lead to stroke. The symptoms of stroke depend on what part of the brain is damaged. When the stroke first happens, symptoms are usually most severe but they may slowly get worse. Headache, clumsiness, changes in tastes, hearing, alertness, difficulty in swallowing, loss of balance, lack of control over the bladder or bowels, loss of vision and loss of memory are the common symptoms of a stroke.

Stroke, Women and Alcohol
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