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How much alcohol raises your risk for stroke?

Eboni Williams reports on the day's top health stories
Heavy drinking may point to higher risk of stroke 00:59

It's well known that drinking alcohol in excess can impact a person's long-term health. But how many vodka sodas or glasses of Cabernet does a person need to consume to cause serious damage?

A new study finds people who drink in middle age have a one-third higher risk for stroke compared to light drinkers. Additionally, they found heavy drinkers tend to have strokes at a younger age.

"In this particular study, more than two drinks a day was too much," Dr. Tara Narula, cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, told "CBS This Morning."

Excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to host of serious and chronic conditions including cancer, liver disease, diabetes and dementia.

The study, published in Stroke, a journal of the American Heart Association, involved 11,000 middle-age individuals. The researchers followed them for 40 years.

"What they found was those people who drank more than two drinks a day -- compared to very light drinkers which would be half a drink a day -- had a 34 percent increase in stroke, had their stroke on average five years earlier. It seemed that alcohol was a relevant risk factor for them before the age of 75 than things like hypertension and diabetes."

Difference between binge drinking and alcoholism 02:46

The study didn't identify a difference in the type of alcohol consumed, but the data indicated that men should not exceed two drinks per day and women should not go beyond one daily drink. The study also shows that consistency in a person's drinking habits may play a role.

However, even though this data is heavy indication that too much booze is a bad move, the study also found that eschewing alcohol altogether didn't necessarily lower a person's risk for future stroke.

"It's like Jekyll and Hyde," said Narula. "On the one hand, it can be medicinal and beneficial or poisonous and detrimental depending on how much you use. Studies have shown this J-shaped curve with alcohol, that if you're at either end of the spectrum -- no drinking or heavy drinking -- you have higher rates of mortality and cardiovascular events. Whereas, if you drink moderately you can lower your risk of heart attack, stroke or mortality anywhere from 20 to 40 percent. So it really depends on the amount. "

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