How Alcohol Affects Blood Pressure

Studies have shown a link between alcohol and hypertension, or high blood pressure. Hypertension occurs when the pressure of blood against the artery walls becomes higher than normal. There is evidence that reducing alcohol intake can help lower blood pressure in those suffering from hypertension and even prevent its development.

If you have high blood pressure, it's important to discuss any risk factors with your healthcare provider, including alcohol consumption. This article explains the connection between alcohol and hypertension, explores the effects of different types of alcohol, and discusses safe alcohol consumption.

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Alcohol and Blood Pressure

A 2018 study, echoed by the World Health Organization (WHO), concluded that no amount of alcohol is safe for consumption, as alcohol leads to a loss of healthy life. Drinking frequently or binging on a large amount of alcohol in a small period of time can lead to health problems.

Drinking alcohol may also increase blood pressure for a short amount of time even in healthy people. If you drink too much over time, chronic hypertension can develop.

Hypertension leads to an increased risk of other health problems, including stroke, heart attack, and heart disease.

Spirits, Beer, and Wine: Is There a Difference?

There is a significant amount of data to show that drinking large quantities of alcohol, whether it is a spirits, beer, or wine, can increase the risk of developing hypertension.

It has also become clear over time that no amount of alcohol is considered safe for consumption, regardless of the type of alcohol.

Red Wine and Blood Pressure

Red wine contains an antioxidant called resveratrol, which some studies have shown reduces cholesterol and lowers blood pressure.

Older studies had shown potential benefits of moderate drinking of red wine, but more recently it has been proven that no level of alcohol consumption is considered safe, or can reduce the risk of hypertension.

Safe Alcohol Consumption

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports a correlation between alcohol consumption and various short- and long-term health risks. A 2018 study showed that no amount of alcohol is considered safe, because its risks lead to a loss of healthy life.

The CDC also states that to reduce alcohol-related health risks, adults of legal drinking age should limit their alcohol consumption to two drinks or less a day for men and one drink or less for women.

How Much Is Too Much?

According to a 2018 study and the World Health Organization, no amount of alcohol intake is safe, so any amount may be considered too much.

However, if you want to partake in alcohol consumption, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020–2025 and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) provide the following guidelines.

Consumption Women Men
Moderate 1 drink/day 2 drinks/day
Heavy 8 drinks week 15 drinks/week
Binge >4 drinks/two hours >5 drinks/two hours

Hypertension and Alcohol

If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, you will need to work with your physician to develop a plan to manage it. In some cases, hypertension can be reversed through lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and reducing or eliminating alcohol intake.

Your healthcare provider may recommend a blood pressure medication as well. If you continue to drink, alcohol may reduce the effectiveness of these medications or even cause a serious medical interaction.

Discuss your alcohol intake with your healthcare provider and make lifestyle changes as recommended.

A Word From Verywell

Decreasing or eliminating your alcohol intake can lower your chances of developing high blood pressure. It may also improve your long-term health. It's important to have regular physical exams, since hypertension is painless and many people don't even know they have it. Talk to your healthcare provider to discuss your risk factors and if it is safe for you to drink alcohol, even in moderation.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is hypertension?

    Hypertension occurs when the pressure of blood against the arterial walls becomes higher than normal. Over time this can lead to serious health conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, and heart attack.

  • How can hypertension be prevented?

    To prevent hypertension, it's important to have healthy lifestyle habits. Some of these habits include maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet with various nutrients, exercising regularly, not smoking, and getting plenty of sleep.

  • Why does alcohol raise blood pressure?

    The exact reason that alcohol raises blood pressure is not entirely known. However, researchers know that alcohol can cause several physiological responses in the heart, including damaging the inner lining of blood vessels, putting stress on the nervous system, and increasing the stress hormone cortisol.

  • How much alcohol is safe to drink daily?

    The amount of alcohol that is safe to drink daily depends on several factors, such as gender and your overall health. The general recommendation is no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. However, a 2018 study suggests that no amount of alcohol is safe to drink. Speak with your healthcare provider to discuss.

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9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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