One Alcoholic Drink Is Enough to Raise Blood Pressure

As little as one glass of beer or wine is linked to higher systolic (top-number) blood pressure even in healthy individuals without hypertension, a new study finds.

The findings published in the journal Hypertension reinforce the American Heart Association's (AHA) advice to reduce alcohol consumption and not to start drinking if one does not do that already.

A systematic review used data from seven international studies that included 19,548 adults from the United States, Korea, and Japan who did not have high blood pressure at the beginning of the study. The participants were followed for 5.3 years on average.

When the researchers compared data of regular alcohol drinkers with non-drinkers, they found that:

  • Consuming an average of 12 g of alcohol per day increased systolic blood pressure by 1.25 mm Hg, whereas drinking 48 g of alcohol daily raised it by 4.9 mm Hg. In the U.S., approximately 12 oz of regular beer, 5 oz of wine, or a 1.5-oz shot of distilled spirits contains about 14 grams of alcohol.
  • Regular consumption of alcohol also raised diastolic blood pressure, but only in males. An average of 12 grams of alcohol per day was associated with a 1.14 mm Hg rise, while it increased to 3.1 mm Hg in those consuming an average of 48 grams of alcohol daily. Diastolic blood pressure, however, is considered less strong in predicting the risk of heart disease compared to systolic blood pressure.

Although alcohol is not the only factor responsible for increased blood pressure, the findings suggest that even moderate consumption can lead to changes, potentially raising the risk of cardiovascular events.

There's a common assumption that a glass of red wine may be good for the heart. However, no studies thus far have established a causal relationship between red wine consumption and better cardiovascular health.

The AHA explicitly discourages drinking alcohol for the sake of potential health benefits. Instead, the Association recommends adhering to its "Life's Essential 8" principles for optimal cardiovascular health, which include managing blood pressure levels.

According to the CDC, over time, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to the development of multiple cancers, weakening of the immune system, mental health problems, dementia, and alcohol use disorders.

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