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Can You Get High Blood Pressure From Drinking Alcohol?

Drinking alcohol has the potential to increase blood pressure in most individuals. Drinking more than three drinks in a single session can lead to a short-term increase in blood pressure. Excessive, long-term alcohol consumption and repeated binge drinking can lead to more sustained rise in blood pressure (hypertension). 

In both cases, systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure can reach unhealthy levels and put you at risk of heart-related complications. Those who already have high blood pressure have an even higher risk of developing hypertension complications from alcohol consumption.

Many people are still at risk of developing high blood pressure from drinking any amount of alcohol, regardless of prior health status. 

What Is High Blood Pressure?

When your heart beats, it sends blood around your body to give it the energy and oxygen it needs. Pressure is required to make the blood circulate. The pressure pushes against the walls of your arteries.

Your blood pressure is a measure of the strength of this pumping, combined with the resistance from the artery walls. A normal heart sends blood around the body easily at low pressure.

High blood pressure means that your heart must work harder, and the arteries must carry blood flowing under greater pressure. This places a strain on your arteries and heart. In turn, this increases your risk of a heart attack, stroke, or kidney disease.

You cannot usually feel or notice high blood pressure. Many people around the world with high blood pressure are undiagnosed. This is because high blood pressure does not usually cause any noticeable symptoms.

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Alcohol and High Blood Pressure Medications

Heart medications, particularly blood pressure medications, tend to interact very negatively with alcohol. 

Some individuals also experience lower blood pressure when drinking, which can lead to dangerously low blood pressure levels when combined with hypertension medications. 

The risk of developing severe hypertension or hypotension (dangerously low blood pressure) from mixing alcohol and high blood pressure medications should be taken seriously.

Moderate Drinking and Blood Pressure

While some people suggest that moderate alcohol consumption improves heart health, several studies found that moderate drinking can cause high blood pressure and other heart problems. Moderate alcohol usage, defined as two or more drinks (five to six days a week), substantially increases your risk of developing long-term high blood pressure, or chronic hypertension. However, when people go from drinking heavily to drinking in moderation, both their systolic and diastolic readings will decrease. 

Moderate alcohol consumption may be allowable with certain high blood pressure medications, but it is important to consult a doctor or pharmacist before doing so.

Other Heart Risks of Heavy Alcohol Use

There are several other cardiovascular risk factors for the heart from alcohol abuse besides elevated blood pressure. These include:

  • Tachycardia — an increased heart rate that causes symptoms such as anxiety and trouble with concentration
  • Cardiomyopathy — a condition that affects the heart and blood vessels
  • Stroke — a serious medical event caused by a lack of blood to the brain, typically from blockage
  • Cardiac Arrest — commonly known as a heart attack, this is a serious risk associated with heavy alcohol use
  • Heart Disease — a condition that is more likely if an individual has a family history of cardiovascular disease or coronary artery disease 
  • Heart Failure — for those who are unable to implement heart disease control measures, heart failure is possible

How to Stay in Control of Your Drinking

People should not regularly drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week to keep health risks low. If you do decide to drink, it is best to spread your drinks evenly during the week.

When you do drink, be sure to consume a healthy meal before your start. Low-fat, low-salt snacks between drinks can also help reduce the absorption of alcohol. They will help keep your blood pressure down too.

Also, make sure you have several drink-free days a week.

FAQs — Alcohol and Blood Pressure 

Is high blood pressure caused by alcohol consumption reversible?

Yes, to an extent. Short-term increases in blood pressure from binge drinking can reverse if the individual ceases consumption for a significant period of time. Those with long-term blood pressure increases can reduce their blood pressure by 4 mmHg (systolic) and 2 mmHg (diastolic) by reducing heavy alcohol use to moderate use. 

How long does it take blood pressure to go down after stopping alcohol use?

For acute increases in blood pressure (from consuming excessive alcohol in a single sitting), blood pressure should normalize within hours of the individual’s last drink. Long-term hypertension caused by heavy drinking takes much longer, as the body goes through an intense adjustment period. 

Alcohol withdrawal can also cause high blood pressure, leading to a rapid rise before an eventual decrease. Those who do not drink alcohol as heavily will typically find that their blood pressure normalizes sooner after stopping alcohol use.

Which alcohol is good for high blood pressure?

The only type of alcohol that is good for high blood pressure is non-alcoholic red wine. One study showed that regular consumption of this beverage can significantly reduce blood pressure in as little as one month. 

Can one glass of red wine a day affect blood pressure?

It might. One glass of wine per day typically will not affect blood pressure in a significant way. However, each person is different. For some people, seven glasses of wine per week can lead to increased blood pressure over time. 

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Resources

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NIAAA. “Alcohol’s Effects on the Body.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

NIAAA. “Harmful Interactions.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

CDC. “ Alcohol and Substance Misuse.” Center for Disease Control and Prevention

MacMahon, S. “Alcohol Consumption and Hypertension.” Hypertension 9:111–121

High blood pressure (hypertension), Mayo Clinic, July 2021

Santana, Nathália Miguel Teixeira et al. “Consumption of alcohol and blood pressure: Results of the ELSA-Brasil study.” PloS one vol. 13,1 e0190239. 8 Jan. 2018, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0190239

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