Alcohol and Blood Pressure: What is the Link?

Dr. Pakhi Sharma (MBBS)
Dr. Pakhi Sharma (MBBS)

General Physician | 6+ years

Alcohol and Blood Pressure
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Experts often say that mild to moderate alcohol consumption can have some health benefits. But have you ever wondered if these health benefits apply to someone with hypertension? In this article, we talk about the relationship between alcohol and blood pressure, how much alcohol you can safely consume with hypertension, and the risks and benefits of alcohol consumption.
Contents:
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    What is the Effect of Alcohol on Blood Pressure?
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    How Much Alcohol Can You Safely Consume With High Blood Pressure?
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    What Type of Alcohol Can Hypertensives Safely Consume?
  • blog_single_bullet_icon
    Are There Any Risks of Over Consuming Alcohol?
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    Are There Any Possible Health Benefits of Alcohol Consumption?
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    Don’t Have Time To Read?
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    FAQs
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What is the Effect of Alcohol on Blood Pressure?

Alcohol can cause several of your body functions to go haywire, your blood pressure chiefly among them. Drinking a small to moderate quantity of alcohol (10 to 28 g) can initially lower your blood pressure for up to 12 hours, beyond which it spikes your blood pressure levels. Long term alcohol consumption or heavy drinking is associated with elevated blood pressure levels (>130/80 mm Hg) and hypertension (>140/90 mm Hg). 

Alcohol is thought to raise your blood pressure through the following mechanisms:

  • Heavy alcohol consumption triggers the release of a hormone called renin, which regulates sodium levels and electrolyte balance in your body as a part of the Renin-Angiotensin-Aldosterone System (RAAS). Increased activity of renin in your blood can lead to the production of angiotensin I and angiotensin II, hormones that cause your blood vessels to constrict, which raises your blood pressure levels. Angiotensin II also stimulates the release of aldosterone, a hormone that retains sodium and water in your body, further increasing your blood pressure.
  • Alcohol interferes with the release and functioning of nitric oxide, which is a vasodilator. Due to this, your arteries remain tense or constricted, which increases your blood pressure.
  • Long term alcohol consumption is also linked to increased cortisol (stress hormone) levels in your body. Increased levels of cortisol are linked to an elevation in your heart rate and blood pressure levels.

How Much Alcohol Can You Safely Consume With High Blood Pressure?

Though a moderate consumption of alcohol is associated with improvement in heart health, any consumption of alcohol leads to increased blood pressure levels. For this reason, most people with hypertension are advised to quit alcohol or limit their consumption to one drink a day in women and two drinks a day in men. 

The following are the recommended quantities of consumption for different types of alcohol.

  • Beer: 1 drink = 12 ounces or 355 ml
  • Red wine: 1 drink = 5 ounces or 148 ml
  • Hard liquor: 1 drink = 1.5 ounces or 44 ml
  • Total alcohol consumption: 10 to 12 g a day (calculated based on the quantity and strength of the drink consumed).
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What Type of Alcohol Can Hypertensives Safely Consume?

If you have hypertension, having any amount of alcohol can spike your blood pressure. So instead of alcoholic beverages, try drinking non-alcoholic wine or beer. Hard liquor (distilled drinks like whiskey, gin, vodka, rum, etc.) should be avoided.

Are There Any Risks of Over Consuming Alcohol?

Regular and excessive alcohol consumption can lead to the following health problems:

  • Impaired judgment and mental faculties
  • Liver damage
  • Damage to the pancreas
  • Increased risk of diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Weight gain and obesity
  • Increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular damage
  • Increased risk of developing cancer (especially breast cancer in women)
  • Weakened immune system
  • Interpersonal issues that can adversely affect social, professional, and familial relationships and mental health
  • Alcohol poisoning, alcohol dependence, and addiction
  • Sexual dysfunction and decreased fertility in men
  • Increased risk of miscarriage in pregnant women
  • Stillbirth or developmental challenges in children born of women who consumed alcohol during pregnancy

Are There Any Possible Health Benefits of Alcohol Consumption?

The benefits offered by alcohol would depend on your age, gender, health, and any medications you are taking, etc. The risks of alcohol consumption may outweigh the benefits if you have prior health conditions like metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, diabetes, liver or kidney dysfunction, or if you are pregnant or taking any medications.

  • In healthy individuals, moderate alcohol consumption may improve heart health and decrease your chances of having a heart attack or stroke.
  • Mild to moderate alcohol consumption may also help you relax and de-stress, thus improving your mood.
  • Some types of alcohol like red wine and whiskey have polyphenols, substances with antioxidant properties that are also found in abundance in tea and dark chocolate. These polyphenols can help lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL or bad) cholesterol levels and also improve the high-density lipoprotein (HDL or good) cholesterol levels in your body.

Don’t Have Time To Read?

  • Alcohol raises your blood pressure through several mechanisms, but mainly it constricts your blood vessels, causes the retention of sodium and water in your kidneys, prevents arterial smooth muscle relaxation, and triggers the release of stress hormones.
  • Mild to moderate consumption of alcohol can cause an initial lowering of your blood pressure levels, followed by a rise in blood pressure after 12 hours of consumption.
  • Moderate alcohol consumption is defined as one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.
  • ven moderate consumption of alcohol can cause an elevation in your blood pressure levels if you have hypertension.
  • If you have hypertension, avoid or limit alcohol consumption, or switch to drinking nonalcoholic red wine or beer. Avoid hard alcohol.
  • Regular alcohol consumption can lead to several short-term and long-term health complications like hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, increased risk of cancer, stroke, kidney damage, liver damage, depression, anxiety, weight gain or obesity, weakened immunity, sexual dysfunction in men, and miscarriage or stillbirth in women.
  • In healthy people with no existing medical conditions, moderate alcohol consumption may improve heart health, and decrease your chances of stroke and heart disease.
  • Use the Phable Care App to consult India’s leading cardiologists, order medicines, book lab tests, integrate BP monitors and other devices to get real-time remote care from the comfort of your home. Also, check out our Hypertension Management program which provides ‎360º care. Let’s treat high blood pressure problems together.

Frequently Asked Questions

Heavy alcohol consumption can raise your blood pressure by 5 to 10 mm Hg. The increase is more significant in your systolic blood pressure than your diastolic blood pressure.

Yes, you can lower your blood pressure levels by reducing your alcohol consumption or quitting alcohol completely. Quitting alcohol also lowers your blood cholesterol and triglycerides levels and lowers your chance of developing heart diseases.

No, it is not advisable to drink alcohol when on blood pressure-lowering medications. Alcohol can affect the way your blood pressure medication is absorbed into your bloodstream, making them less effective. When combined with some blood pressure medicines like beta-blockers or diuretics, alcohol can cause your blood pressure levels to fall too low.

Whiskey is believed to be good for heart health in very small doses. However, moderate to heavy consumption is linked with increased blood pressure levels, heart attack, and stroke risks.

Yes, several studies have shown that drinking beer can cause an increase in your blood pressure levels.

Alcohol consumption is associated with an increase in blood pressure levels and heart rate, both in the short term and long term. However, small quantities of alcohol may sometimes lower your blood pressure due to dehydration.

Dr. Pakhi Sharma
Dr. Pakhi Sharma, MBBS
(General physician, 6+ years)
An expert in obstetrics and medical emergencies, Dr. Pakhi Sharma, an alumni of Sri Devaraj Urs University of Higher Education and Research Centre, is a general physician working at Phablecare. She has 6+ years of work experience spread across gynaecology and obstetrics, family medicine, and medical emergencies at renowned hospitals and clinics.

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