"Any pattern of drinking, even heavy binge drinking, did not significantly increase the risk of dying of stroke: It was only 1.66 times higher than nondrinkers," Ohrr said.
"However, male heavy binge drinkers with hypertension had a 12-fold higher risk of cardiovascular mortality than nondrinkers with optimal blood pressure," he added.
Whether the findings are exclusive to this population isn't known, and Ohrr's group stressed that the findings need to be replicated in other populations.
"Heavy drinking is quite prevalent in South Korea," researchers wrote in the study, noting that the country's guidelines defines a "heavy drinker" as a man who consumes more than six glasses of soju (a distilled alcoholic beverage similar to sake) or another drink on one occasion at least once a week, or a woman who consumes four glasses of soju or another drink at least once a week. Using that criteria, nearly half (46.5 percent) of male adults and 9.2 percent of female adults in South Korea are heavy drinkers, according to data quoted in the study.
The American Heart Association advises drinking in moderation. That's no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. Binge drinking, for U.S. men, is defined as having five or more drinks in a row; in women, as having four or more drinks in a row.
A drink is one 12-ounce beer, one 4-ounce glass of wine, 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits or one ounce of 100-proof spirits, the association said.
Dr. Larry B. Goldstein, director of Duke Stroke Center at Duke University Medical Center and a spokesman for the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, said that "the message is consistent with other studies."
"Overall, the long-term stroke risk may be lower among persons who consu
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