The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, May 17, 2010. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's blog at The Huffington Post website.

Is Beau Biden's Abstinence a Risk Factor for Stroke?

Beau Biden, the apparently healthy, certainly fit-seeming, 41-year-old son of Vice President Joe Biden, suffered a minor stroke recently.

During the famous beer bash at the White House, Joe Biden alone among the four men present drank a soft drink. This is reportedly due not to a drinking problem he has had, but out of his respect due to widespread alcoholism he has witnessed.

If Joe passed his abstinence along to his son, Beau was at risk for cardiovascular disease (CAD), heart attack, and ischemic stroke (cerebral infarction). These findings have repeatedly been published -- most recently in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Harvard Medical School researcher Kenneth Mukamal and colleagues, based on prospective (measuring drinking then tracking CAD incidents) data from the National Health Interview Survey, found that moderate drinkers (one to two drinks daily for men) had 62 percent the cardiovascular death rate of lifetime abstainers (lifetime abstainers are chosen for comparison to eliminate people who stopped drinking for health reasons).

In earlier research, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, a team led by Mukamal found that even men with otherwise healthy lifestyles like Beau Biden might have (in terms of diet, weight, exercise and not smoking) suffered significantly fewer heart attacks when they drank moderately.

Thus, if Beau Biden is a lifetime abstainer -- as his father seems to be -- he is at significantly greater risk for such CAD events and death.

Would your doctor tell you this? I found out about the latest study because mine did. (We had previously discussed the issue.) As a rule of thumb, I have found that doctors are either ignorant of this relationship, or decline to tell patients about it out of fear such information might turn them into alcoholics.