The effects of alcohol may put you at further risk after a stroke, and you will need to review your drinking and consider cutting down, especially if you were a heavy drinker beforehand. There are a number of factors you need to consider – talk to your GP for more advice:
- Following a stroke you may be more vulnerable to alcohol and its negative effects such as sleep disturbance, poor balance and impaired speech. Alcohol may worsen mood swings and depression, which are common after a stroke. It may affect your memory and thinking, making you forgetful and less able to make sound judgements.
- If you are out after dark, you should remember that alcohol can reduce night vision by 25 per cent and slow down reaction times by 10-30 per cent.
- Alcohol acts on the kidneys, creating excessive amounts of urine, which may make you dehydrated.
- If you are less active than before your stroke, you will need to reduce your calorie intake (especially these ‘empty’ calories) to avoid becoming overweight. If you are less active and not absorbing calcium properly, your bones may become weakened.
- Drinking alcohol may be harmful when taking medicines that are sometimes needed after a stroke. Ask your GP or pharmacist about whether you may drink at all and if so, what the sensible limits are for you. You may be advised to stop drinking for the first month or two after starting a new medicine so that your body can get used to its effects.
- If you do drink you should ask at your anticoagulant clinic about your alcohol intake and how much you can safely drink on a regular basis.
Drinking alcohol after a stroke due to bleeding in the brain (a haemorrhagic stroke) could put you at particular risk. You will need to avoid alcohol for at least the first three weeks, and be advised by your doctor after that.