Alcoholic beverages are regular drinks in most parts of the world. No one knows how alcohol causes hypertension, but it may be due to the effects of alcohol endothelium, nervous system, cortisol levels or other body systems.
Alcoholic beverages are regular drinks in most parts of the world. No one knows how alcohol causes hypertension, but it may be due to the effects of alcohol endothelium, nervous system, cortisol levels or other body systems.

Alcoholic beverages are regular drinks in most parts of the world. If consumed in little to moderate amounts, alcohol can be healthy for most individuals. However, drinking too much alcohol can create many problems including an increase in blood pressure. Having more than three drinks back-to-back can increase your blood pressure temporarily, but if you keep doing it frequently, you may develop a long-term condition called hypertension (high blood pressure).

How alcohol causes hypertension is still not confirmed. Research suggests that the following effects of alcohol on the body can cause high blood pressure.

  • Damage to the endothelium (inner lining of the blood vessels)
  • Atherosclerosis (hardening of the walls of the blood vessels)
  • Effect on the nervous system
  • Changes in sensations of blood pressure receptors in the body
  • Increase in cortisol (stress hormone)
  • Increased calcium levels in the walls of the arteries
  • Effect on hormones that constrict (reduce the diameter) and relax (increase the diameter) the arteries
  • Unwanted weight gain

Heavy alcohol drinking increases blood pressure by about 5 to 10 mmHg and the increase in systolic pressure is more than that in diastolic blood pressure.

How much alcohol is okay?

It is okay to have drinks in moderation if you are a healthy individual. Here is what moderate alcohol consumption means.

For healthy men who are younger than 65 years old: Not more than two drinks per day

For healthy men who are 65 years of age and older: Not more than one drink per day

For healthy women of any age: Not more than one drink per day

     Alcoholic beverage                 One drink equivalent (in ounces)     
 Beer  12
 Wine  5
 Spirit (80-proof distilled)  1.5

If you have hypertension, you should avoid drinking alcohol or at least consume it in moderation. For additional concerns, do not hesitate to ask your doctor about the amount of alcohol that would be fine for you.

What are binge drinking and heavy drinking?

When moderate alcohol drinking leads to unhealthy forms of drinking, it is known as binge drinking and it increases your risk of hypertension.

Binge drinking is defined as

  • Four or more drinks within two hours for women.
  • Five or more drinks within two hours for men.

Heavy drinking is more than

  • Three drinks a day for women.
  • Four drinks a day for men.

Can alcohol be taken with blood pressure medications?

Alcohol not only affects your blood pressure levels, but also interacts with your blood pressure medications and either increases levels of these drugs or causes side effects.

Medications that are known to interact with alcohol include

How to prevent alcohol-induced hypertension

The best way to prevent alcohol-induced hypertension is by reducing your alcohol intake. This not only helps you lower your blood pressure (if you have hypertension), but also helps lower your risk of hypertension in the long run.

Heavy drinkers who switch to moderate drinking can lower their systolic blood pressure by two to four mmHg and their diastolic blood pressure by one to two mmHg. However, they should not stop drinking right away. This can lead to alcohol withdrawal, a condition that can cause blood pressure to increase rapidly. Instead, they should gradually taper off the amount of their drinks over one to two weeks.

Doctors often recommend a healthy diet and regular exercise to people with high blood pressure as a part of their treatment. Moreover, some medications can help treat alcohol-induced hypertension.

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Medically Reviewed on 7/9/2021
References
Mayo Clinic: "Alcohol: Does It Affect Blood Pressure?" https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/expert-answers/blood-pressure/faq-20058254

World Journal of Cardiology: "Alcohol-Induced Hypertension: Mechanism and Prevention." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4038773/

Alcohol.org: "High Blood Pressure from Alcohol Consumption." https://www.alcohol.org/effects/blood-pressure/