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Alcohol and Blood Pressure

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Can You Get High Blood Pressure From Drinking Alcohol?

Drinking alcohol can increase blood pressure in most people.

Consuming more than 3 drinks in a single session can lead to a short-term increase in blood pressure.

Excessive alcohol consumption and repeated binge drinking can cause a long-term rise in blood pressure. This is known as chronic hypertension

In both cases, systolic and diastolic blood pressure can reach unhealthy levels. These changed blood pressure levels put you at risk of heart-related complications. Other organ systems can become damaged as well.

Those who already have high blood pressure have an even higher risk of developing hypertension complications from excessive alcohol use.

Alcohol contains calories that contribute to fat deposition and unwanted weight gain. These metabolic factors increase the risk for high blood pressure.

Alcohol also interacts with certain blood pressure medications. This affects the level of medication in your body and increases side effects.

Everyone is at risk of developing high blood pressure from drinking any amount of alcohol, regardless of prior health status. 

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What is High Blood Pressure?

When your heart beats, it sends blood around your body to give it the nutrients and oxygen it needs. Pressure is required to make the blood circulate by pushing against the walls of your arteries.

Blood pressure is the product of the strength of the heart's pumping against the resistance in the walls of the arteries. A normal heart sends blood around the body easily at low pressure.

The higher tension there is in the artery walls, the higher the blood pressure.

High blood pressure means that your heart has to work harder. The arteries must carry blood flowing under greater pressure. This can place a strain on your arteries and heart.

As such, there's a greater risk of:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Kidney disease
  • Peripheral artery disease

You can't usually feel or notice high blood pressure because some people have no symptoms at all. Many people around the world are undiagnosed with this condition. However, it's common with other metabolic problems like weight gain and obesity.

Moderate Drinking and Blood Pressure

Studies on the effects of alcohol on blood pressure are conflicting.

Some suggest that moderate alcohol consumption improves heart health. However, other studies show that moderate drinking can cause high blood pressure and other heart problems.7

Moderate alcohol usage is defined as 2 drinks or less in a day for men or 1 drink or less for women.8 Moderate drinking may increase your risk of developing long-term high blood pressure or chronic hypertension.

When people go from drinking heavily to drinking in moderation, their systolic and diastolic readings decrease. 

However, heavy and binge drinking pose a more serious rise in blood pressure.

Moderate alcohol consumption may be allowable with certain high blood pressure medications. However, it's essential to consult a doctor or pharmacist first.

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How to Stay in Control of Your Drinking

People shouldn't drink more than 14 units of alcohol in a week to keep health risks low.9 If you decide to drink, it's best to spread your drinks evenly throughout the week.

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

Make sure you have several drink-free days a week.

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Alcohol and High Blood Pressure Medications

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

Some people also experience lower blood pressure as a result of alcohol consumption. This can lead to dangerously low blood pressure levels when combined with hypertension medications. 

The risk of developing severe hypertension or hypotension from mixing alcohol and anti-hypertensive medications should be taken seriously. Hypotension refers to dangerously low blood pressure.

Other Heart Risks of Heavy Alcohol Use

There are several other cardiovascular risk factors that increase with alcohol abuse.

These include:

  • Tachycardia: An increased heart rate. This condition causes symptoms such as anxiety and concentration issues.
  • Cardiomyopathy: A condition that affects the heart function and blood vessels.
  • Cardiac arrest: Commonly known as a heart attack. This is a serious risk linked to heavy alcohol use.
  • Ischemic heart disease: This condition is more likely if someone has a family history of cardiovascular disease or coronary artery disease. It occurs when certain parts of the heart are not properly supplied with blood due to blood vessel blockages.
  • Heart failure: This occurs when the heart muscles cannot pump blood as it should.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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 someone stops drinking for a significant period.

Those with long-term blood pressure can reduce their blood pressure by switching heavy alcohol use to moderate use. 

It is essential to regularly take your antihypertensive medications, too.

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

For acute increases, blood pressure should normalize within hours of someone's last drink. Acute increases usually occur from consuming excessive alcohol in a single sitting.

Long-term hypertension caused by heavy drinking takes much longer to reduce. This is because the body goes through an intense adjustment period. 

Alcohol withdrawal can also cause high blood pressure, leading to a rapid rise before decreasing. Those who don't drink alcohol as heavily typically see their blood pressure normalize quicker after stopping alcohol use.

Which alcohol is good for high blood pressure?

There is no type of alcohol that is "good" for high blood pressure.

However, regular consumption of non-alcoholic red wine can significantly reduce blood pressure in as little as 1 month.10 

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

It might. One glass of wine per day typically won't affect blood pressure significantly.

However, there is no definite answer to this because research is still lacking.

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Updated on April 8, 2022
10 sources cited
  1. NIAAA. “Alcohol’s Effects on the Body.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
  2. NIAAA. “Harmful Interactions.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
  3. CDC. “ Alcohol and Substance Misuse.” Center for Disease Control and Prevention
  4. MacMahon, S. “Alcohol Consumption and Hypertension.” Hypertension 9:111–121
  5. High blood pressure (hypertension), Mayo Clinic, July 2021
  6. Santana, Nathália Miguel Teixeira et al. “Consumption of alcohol and blood pressure: Results of the ELSA-Brasil study.” PloS one vol.
  7. Klatsky, A L. “Moderate drinking and reduced risk of heart disease.” Alcohol research & health : the journal of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism vol. 23,1 : 15-23.
  8. Dietary Guidelines for Alcohol, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), December 2020
  9. The Risks of Drinking Too Much, National Health Service (NHS), December 2020
  10. Chiva-Blanch, Gemma et al. “Dealcoholized red wine decreases systolic and diastolic blood pressure and increases plasma nitric oxide: short communication.” Circulation research vol. 111,8 : 1065-8

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