July 15, 2010 -- Happy hour may not be so happy afterward, as researchers have found that stroke risk is more than twice as high the hour immediately after consuming alcohol, even after as little as one drink.
Still, health experts say, that's no reason to put down the wine glass or beer mug because there's a significant body of research showing that moderate alcohol intake can be good for you. Numerous studies have shown that drinking alcohol in moderation has beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system.
"Overall, the long-term stroke risk may be lower among persons who consume small to moderate amounts of alcohol (no more than two drinks per day for men and no more than one drink for non-pregnant women)," Dr. Larry Goldstein, professor of medicine and director of the Duke Stroke Center at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., wrote in an e-mail. "Therefore, the long-term reduction may outweigh the immediate risk."
Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston looked at nearly 400 men and women who suffered ischemic strokes and compared their alcohol intake in the previous year to their intake in the hour before their stroke symptoms began. They found that stroke risk was 2.3 times higher during the hour after drinking than it was when there was no alcohol consumed.
The risk was the same for different kinds of alcoholic beverages. This risk decreases by about 30 percent within 24 hours.
The researchers also said they did not include people who smoked, drank a caffeinated beverage or were exposed to other potential stroke triggers in the hour before stroke symptoms began.
"Even when we excluded people who were exposed to another risk factor in that hour, there was no change in effect," said Elizabeth Mostofsky, a co-author and doctoral candidate at the Harvard School of Public Health.