Heavy Drinking and Hangovers Tied to Stroke

Excessive drinking and hangovers were linked to atherosclerosis and stroke

(RxWiki News) Waking up with a hangover can leave you with a headache for the rest of the day. Recent research suggests that it also may lead to lasting damage to blood vessels.

A new study looked at drinking habits among middle-aged men, then looked at their heart health 11 years later. 

The study showed that binge drinking, hangovers and frequent drinking were all associated with dangerous heart problems like thickened arteries and stroke. People who had high blood pressure or were overweight were especially at risk.

"Avoid heavy drinking."

Sanna Rantakömi, MSc, conducted this study to see how alcohol consumption affected heart health.

According to Rantakömi, previous research has shown that moderate alcohol consumption is related to a low risk of stroke, but heavy alcohol consumption may significantly raise that risk.

She used data from the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factory Study, or KIHD, a larger health project that looked at heart health in Finnish men.

Ranktakömi examined more than 2,600 men, 42 to 60 years old, and followed up with them after 11 years. She collected data on alcohol consumption, how often they binge drank (defined as consuming six or more drinks in one sitting) and frequency of hangovers.

She also looked at other variables, like blood pressure, body mass index (BMI) — a measure of height and weight — and whether they smoked.

Upon follow-up, she gathered information about the participants' health status and ran tests to evaluate their heart health.

She found that binge drinking was associated with increased atherosclerosis, or a thickening of the artery walls. Atherosclerosis can put patients at risk for heart disease, heart attack, stroke and even death.

After 11 years, participants who binge drank had an increased plaque height along their arteries of 0.257 millimeters, while those who did not binge drink had an increase of 0.182 millimeters of plaque.

Additionally, participants who drank enough to have at least one hangover per year were 2.33 times more likely to have a stroke than men who did not have hangovers.

Men who reported drinking more than 2.5 times per week were 2.47 times more likely to die from a stroke than men who did not drink alcohol at all.

Ranktakömi also found that the risk of stroke rose in men who already had high blood pressure or were overweight. Overweight binge drinkers with high blood pressure had the most elevated stroke risk.

Ranktakömi concluded that drinking alcohol in excess can have serious effects on heart health. 

Binge drinking led to the progression of atherosclerosis in men. Additionally, hangovers and frequent alcohol consumption led to an increased risk for stroke and death from stroke. Men who had high blood pressure and were overweight were especially at risk.

Ranktakömi suggested that heavy consumption of alcohol should be avoided in order to reduce the risk for stroke. She also stressed the importance of carrying out research about alcohol use and stroke among women.

This research was released on October 21 as the author's doctoral thesis at the University of Eastern Finland. She reported no conflicts of interest. The research was funded by the Addiction Programme of the Academy of Finland.

Review Date: 
October 25, 2013