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Updated on October 3, 2023
7 min read

What Are the Effects of Alcohol on Blood Pressure?

Have you ever wondered about the relationship between alcohol and blood pressure? From having just one drink to regular and excessive consumption, the effects on your health are undeniable.

This blog post explores how alcoholic drinks raise blood pressure. It will also look into the immediate and long-term effects that can lead to serious health issues. 

Most importantly, it will discuss how modifying binge drinking habits can contribute to maintaining healthy blood pressure levels. Understanding all these can reduce future risks of drinking.

What Are the Impacts of Alcohol on Blood Pressure?

When you drink alcohol excessively in one sitting, it can cause an immediate, short-term increase in blood pressure. On the other hand, frequent long-term drinking can cause lasting elevated blood pressure.

Consuming alcohol causes the blood vessels to narrow, which causes hypertension or a rise in blood pressure. This can lead to severe issues and the increased risk.

These risks include:

  • Reduced blood flow
  • Cardiovascular disease (heart disease)
  • Increased heart rate
  • Heart attack or stroke
  • Alcohol-induced vascular dementia
  • Kidney disease

High blood pressure is the most common health problem associated with alcohol use. Stage 1 hypertension entails a systolic blood pressure reading of 130–139 mm Hg and a diastolic blood pressure reading of 80–89 mm Hg. 

Many people, including moderate drinkers, suffer from hypertension without realizing it.

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What Are the Symptoms of Alcohol-Induced Hypertension?

The common symptoms of alcohol-induced hypertension include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Chest pain
  • Palpitations (heart racing)
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Irritability and difficulty concentrating
  • Anxiety
  • Tinnitus or ringing in the ears
  • Breathing problems

These symptoms don't necessarily mean you have alcohol-induced hypertension. A visit with the doctor is still necessary for an accurate diagnosis.

How Does Alcohol Affect Blood Pressure?

Alcohol causes blood vessels to constrict and narrow. When blood vessels narrow, the heart must work harder and exert more force to move blood through the body, causing higher blood pressure. 

Drinking alcohol also raises blood pressure by decreasing vasodilators such as nitric oxide (NO) in the vascular system. This results in the inability to dilate and widen blood vessels, possibly due to inhibiting nitric oxide synthase or a purely inflammatory response.7

Due to all these, alcohol consumption is a leading risk factor for hypertension. Regular drinking, even as little as one alcoholic beverage per day, can heighten your risk of developing high blood pressure. The increased risk is especially true for people aged 35 and older. 

Gender and Alcohol-Related Hypertension

Women are more likely to experience the adverse effects of alcohol-related hypertension than men. They process alcohol differently than men due to their smaller body size and lower dehydrogenase levels—enzymes in the gastrointestinal tract that break down alcohol. 

When women drink, they absorb more alcohol into their bloodstream than men. As a result, they are more susceptible to the adverse effects of drinking too much and developing hypertension. 

The World Health Organization recommends that women have no more than one drink per day, while men should have no more than two drinks per day.

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How Long Does Alcohol Affect Your Blood Pressure?

Alcohol has an immediate effect on blood pressure. Even a single alcoholic drink can cause an acute increase in blood pressure, though it subsides after about 2 hours. 

In the medium term, alcohol use over several days can lead to a more sustained increase in blood pressure. This also subsides in a few days rather than a couple of hours. 

Hypertension is prevalent among those suffering from alcohol use disorder (AUD). However, this condition generally subsides after alcohol withdrawal and recovery. Overall, the consensus is that alcohol typically exerts only a short-term, impermanent effect on blood pressure.

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Which Alcohol Is Good for Blood Pressure?

There’s no evidence showing that alcohol can be beneficial to blood pressure. Alcohol increases blood pressure, leading to heart problems and other long-term health concerns. 

However, there is a link between red wine and good heart health, possibly from other co-occurring lifestyle factors. 

The key aspect regarding red wine is drinking it in moderation. You are less likely to consume red wine in excess when you eat food with it. The same is true when you maintain a balanced diet. 

Drinking one glass of wine several times per week does less damage to your heart than drinking multiple glasses in one sitting. 

Is High Blood Pressure Due to Alcohol Use Reversible?

Fortunately, high blood pressure due to alcohol use is largely reversible. Several studies have shown that the acute effects of increased blood pressure from a single drink subside within a couple of hours.

Medium-term impacts are more pronounced. It takes more than a few hours to bring baseline blood pressure down to pre-alcohol levels. However, this still subsides within a matter of days or weeks. 

While high blood pressure is still reversible, long-term alcohol addiction poses other effects on your overall health. Your blood pressure may return to normal levels, but any damage to your heart and body due to elevated blood pressure may be irreversible.

Other Factors That Affect Blood Pressure Levels

Besides alcohol use, several other factors affect blood pressure levels. When you combine it with even moderate drinking, these factors can lead to increased blood pressure.

Factors that affect blood pressure levels include:

  • Age: Blood pressure increases with age, especially in people aged 35 and older.
  • Weight gain: A high BMI increases your risk of narrowing and hardening the arteries due to the high amount of fat stored in the body.
  • Elevated stress levels: Stress triggers a release of adrenaline that tightens up your veins and arteries, making it harder for the heart to pump blood through the body.
  • Sedentary lifestyle: Regular physical activity can help keep your blood pressure in check because it increases heart and circulatory health. It also helps control your weight and stress levels, reducing the risk of developing hypertension.
  • Dietary deficiencies: Increased sodium can build up in your bloodstream and narrow your arteries. Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help keep your blood pressure in check.
  • Family history of hypertension: A family history of hypertension can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure. 
  • Medications or other regimens that affect the heart: Certain medications and treatments, such as high doses of steroids or chemotherapy, can increase blood pressure levels. 

It’s important to discuss any potential health risks with your doctor beforehand. Ultimately, being mindful of these factors can reduce your risk of developing hypertension due to alcohol consumption.

How Can You Prevent High Blood Pressure?

Help prevent high blood pressure by reducing your alcohol intake. It’s even better to stop drinking alcohol because even one drink daily can significantly increase your blood pressure.

Other things you can do to prevent or help moderate blood pressure include:

  • Losing weight
  • Exercising
  • Maintaining a healthier diet, including eating more fiber, fruits, and vegetables
  • Quitting smoking 
  • Getting an appropriate amount of sleep 
  • Taking prescribed blood pressure medications if needed

Things to Avoid

Certain lifestyle habits can contribute to elevated blood pressure. It’s important to avoid or limit:

  • Excessive alcohol consumption (no more than two drinks per day for men and one for women)
  • Smoking cigarettes and other tobacco products
  • Eating processed foods high in sodium
  • Consuming excessive amounts of caffeine
  • Engaging in activities that increase stress levels

Taking these steps can reduce your risk of developing hypertension due to alcohol consumption. It’s also important to talk to your healthcare provider if you feel like you may be at risk. 

What Are the Benefits of Stopping or Reducing Alcohol Consumption?

If you're drinking too frequently and excessively, cutting back on your habits can make a major difference to your overall health. 

Reducing alcohol consumption can lead to improved health overall. It can also help lower blood pressure levels and provide an increased sense of well-being. 

In addition, reducing or stopping alcohol consumption can:

  • Improve cognitive function
  • Lower your risk of developing depression and other mental health issues
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Improve sleep quality
  • Increase physical fitness
  • Enhance your overall quality of life

Summary

Alcohol consumption can lead to increased blood pressure, which can cause long-term health issues. However, the effects of alcohol on your blood pressure are reversible. 

It’s important to be mindful of all the factors that affect blood pressure levels, including:

  • Age
  • Weight gain
  • Stress levels
  • Lifestyle
  • Dietary deficiencies
  • Family history 

Addressing these factors can reduce your risk of developing hypertension due to alcohol consumption.

Finally, reducing or stopping alcohol consumption can benefit your health. So, consider cutting back if you feel your consumption is too frequent or excessive. It can help improve your cognitive function and your overall health and well-being.

Updated on October 3, 2023
7 sources cited
Updated on October 3, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Alcohol’s Effects on Health.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2021. 
  2. Husain et al. “Alcohol-induced hypertension: Mechanism and prevention.” World Journal of Cardiology, 2014.
  3. Puddey, I., and Beilin, L.J. “Alcohol is bad for blood pressure.” Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology, 2006.
  4. Husain et al. “Alcohol-induced hypertension: Mechanism and prevention.” World Journal of Cardiology, 2014.
  5. Hypertension.” World Health Organization, 2023.
  6. Lopez-Jimenez, F. “Alcohol: Does it affect blood pressure?” Mayo Clinic, 2022.
  7. Cahill et al. “Alcohol and Cardiovascular Disease—Modulation of Vascular Cell Function.” MDPI, 2012.
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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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