The Relationship Between Blood Pressure and Alcohol Consumption
Hypertension (high blood pressure) is characterized by blood flowing at higher than normal pressure through arteries.
The two pressure measures are systolic (while the heart beats while pumping blood) and diastolic (the heart is at rest between beats.)
Normal Blood Pressure is below 120 mmHg systolic and 80 mmHg diastolic. Hypertension is diagnosed when blood pressure runs consistently over these levels.
High Blood Pressure and Alcohol Consumption are Linked
More than 3 drinks per session can raise blood pressure to levels which are considered high or unhealthy. This is usually temporary, but repeated sessions of heavy drinking can lead to long-term or permanent elevation of blood pressure.
How to Avoid High Blood Pressure
If you are a heavy drinker with elevated blood pressure, you should reduce your alcohol intake over the course of a few days to weeks. If you stop cold turkey, you are at risk for elevating your blood pressure even more due to the withdrawal effects of alcohol abstention.
If you currently have hypertension, you should not drink alcohol or only drink in the strictest of moderation.
Recommendations for High Blood Pressure and Alcohol Consumption
- Men under 65 – 2 drinks per day
- Men over 65 – 1 drink per day
- Women – 1 drink per day
One drink is generally defined as 12 oz. of beer, 5 oz. of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor.
Because alcohol is high in calories, heaving drinking may lead to weight gain if not otherwise compensated. Weight gain is a factor which commonly contributes to hypertension.
Also, alcohol may interact with blood pressure medications, rendering them less effective.
Is There Ever a Positive Relationship Between Blood Pressure and Alcohol Consumption?
Mildly, it can be. Light to moderate drinking may render a minor blood pressure decrease, perhaps due to the effects of relaxation. However, the drop is usually not significant enough to warrant a recommendation for drinking alcohol, especially when one does not drink already.
Drinking red wine in moderation may help heart health due to the antioxidants, but the same benefits are found in non-alcoholic drinks such as cranberry juice. As far as cholesterol, again other substances may work just as well, such as eating oatmeal.
However, one drink a day may be helpful to persons over 50, which are more likely to need additional help with blood pressure management, heart trouble, and cholesterol. That is, it is less likely that they would receive many negative effects from very light drinking, and incur a slight health advantage.
Also, if there are hereditary factors involved, such as alcoholism that runs in the family, no amount of alcohol is worth pursuing.
If you or someone you know is an alcoholic, please seek help immediately.