Speedy passage of Alcohol Bill urged to help cut soaring stroke rate

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Consuming more than two drinks daily increases stroke risk by 34%

Consuming more than two alcoholic drinks daily in middle age increases your stroke risk by more than a third.

In a statement released to coincide with World Stroke Day, the Irish Heart Foundation called for the speedy passage of legislation to reduce alcohol consumption and save lives.

Irish Heart Foundation policy manager Kathryn Reilly said major European research also shows that the average age of stroke onset is five years younger for daily drinkers than people who consume alcohol moderately or teetotallers.

Meanwhile data from Ireland’s TILDA study shows that every alcoholic drink consumed increases the risk of atrial fibrillation, a form of irregular heartbeat, which is the biggest cause of stroke in Ireland after high blood pressure and is particularly associated with more severe strokes.

“We know that 90% of strokes are associated with 10 risk factors, of which alcohol consumption is one. Addressing these risk factors would not just have a major impact on stroke, they would also prevent crises in our acute hospitals,” said Ms Reilly.

“The World Stroke Organisation has highlighted that over 1 million strokes each year are linked to excessive alcohol consumption.

"In Ireland, we currently have the highest youth binge drinking rate in Europe and it is estimated that stroke incidence will increase by 59% by 2030."

Irish Heart Foundation policy manager Kathryn Reilly

“If we continue to consume alcohol to such excess as a nation, facilitated by relentless alcohol marketing and its normalisation in everyday life, we are opening the floodgates to chronic disease and disability into the future.”

Research carried out among more than 11,000 Swedish twins shows the increased stroke risk caused by daily drinking in middle age rivals the risk posed by high blood pressure or diabetes. By age 75, however, blood pressure and diabetes became better predictors of stroke.

Among identical twins, siblings who had a stroke drank more than their siblings who hadn’t had a stroke, suggesting that midlife drinking raises stroke risks regardless of genetics and early lifestyle.

The Tilda research shows that every unit of alcohol consumed weekly brings a two percent relative increase in the risk of suffering atrial fibrillation.

“When we talk about the need to reduce waiting lists, take people off trollies in overcrowded A&Es and do more for the management of chronic disease, we cannot overlook important measures to deal with prevention, which will yield obvious benefits in terms of reduced human, social and economic costs,” Ms Reilly added.

“We can improve public health by advocating population-wide prevention strategies and it is very clear that the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill is such a strategy. The Irish Heart Foundation fully supports the provisions of this Bill and on World Stroke Day, we are calling for this Bill to be passed without further delay, as a prevention measure to alleviate the growing burden of stroke on Irish society and the economy.”

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