How Do Alcohol, Coffee, and Smoking Influence Blood Pressure?

People who drink alcohol excessively (over two drinks per day) have a one and a half to two times increase in the frequency of high blood pressure (hypertension). The association between alcohol and high blood pressure is particularly noticeable when the alcohol intake exceeds 5 drinks per day. Moreover, the connection is a dose-related phenomenon. In other words, the more alcohol that is consumed, the stronger is the link with hypertension.

Although smoking increases the risk of vascular complications (for example, heart disease and stroke) in people who already have hypertension, it is not associated with an increase in the development of hypertension. Nevertheless, smoking a cigarette can repeatedly produce an immediate, temporary rise in the blood pressure of 5 to10 mm Hg. Steady smokers however, actually may have a lower blood pressure than nonsmokers. The reason for this is that the nicotine in the cigarettes causes a decrease in appetite, which leads to weight loss. This, in turn, lowers the blood pressure.

In one study, the caffeine consumed in 5 cups of coffee daily caused a mild increase in blood pressure in elderly people who already had hypertension, but not in those who had normal blood pressures. What's more, the combination of smoking and drinking coffee in persons with high blood pressure may increase the blood pressure more than coffee alone. Limiting caffeine intake and cigarette smoking in hypertensive individuals, therefore, may be of some benefit in controlling their high blood pressure.

For much more about high blood pressure, please visit the Blood Pressure Center.


Last Editorial Review: 8/8/2002




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