Alcohol And Blood Pressure – What You Need To Know

alcohol and blood pressure

When you have high blood pressure, it’s important to keep your alcohol intake in check. Research published in the Lancet shows that the more alcohol you drink, the more likely you are to experience blood pressure related side effects, and to die prematurely as a result.

Alcohol increases the risks of hypertension

Data from almost 600,000 current drinkers across 19 countries looked for links between alcohol intake and heart disease events for every 100g alcohol (12·5 units) they drank per week.

For every 100g alcohol more than this, the risks of:

  • fatal hypertensive disease (complications associated with high blood pressure) increased by 24%
  • fatal heart rhythm abnormalities increased by 17%
  • fatal aortic aneurysm increased by 15%.
  • non-fatal stroke increased by 14%
  • fatal stroke increased by 13%
  • sudden cardiac death increased by 12%
  • heart failure increased by 9%

The only long-term health risk that decreased was risk of heart attack, which fell by  6% for every additional 100g alcohol consumed. This was not enough to balance out the good and bad, however. Compared with those who drank up to 100g alcohol per week, on average, life expectancy (calculated from the age of 40 years) was:

  • 6 months less for those drinking 101g to – 200g per week
  • 1 to 2 years less for those drinking 201g to 350g per week
  • 4 to 5 years less for those drinking more than 350g alcohol per week.

alcohol blood pressure graph

Source: Wood AM et al. Lancet 2018; 391(10129):1513-1523

Don’t over-indulge in alcohol if you have high blood pressure

If you wish to drink alcohol, it makes sense not to exceed an intake of 100g alcohol (12.5 units, which was the threshold for lowest risk. This amounts to around five and a half standard UK glasses of wine or pints of beer) per week, on average, spread out over the week. Binge drinking increases blood pressure and can cause dangerous heart rhythm abnormalities.

Previously, researchers have found that above an intake of 3 drinks (30g alcohol) in one go, every additional drink (10g alcohol) increases your average systolic blood pressure (upper reading) by 1-2 mmHg, and your diastolic blood pressure (lower reading) by 1 mmHg.

Alcohol also has an adverse effect on the liver, leading to inflammation and the production of substances that cause blood pressure to rise. In the long-term this can lead to liver inflammation, fibrosis and cirrhosis.

You can download a free Drinkaware app to record your drinks to help you track your alcohol intake.

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Image credit: pixabay

About DrSarahBrewer

Dr Sarah Brewer MSc (Nutr Med), MA (Cantab), MB, BChir, RNutr, MBANT, CNHC qualified from Cambridge University with degrees in Natural Sciences, Medicine and Surgery. After working in general practice, she gained a master's degree in nutritional medicine from the University of Surrey. Sarah is a registered Medical Doctor, a registered Nutritionist and a registered Nutritional Therapist. She is an award winning author of over 60 popular self-help books and a columnist for Prima magazine.

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