Alcohol and Blood Pressure
What do blood pressure and alcohol have to do with each other? Drinking too much can raise blood pressure in those with hypertension or cause a person with normal blood pressure to develop the condition. In general, one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men is okay. Also, hypertension medication and alcohol can combine to increase side effects and alter the effectiveness of the medicine.
Often, people with high blood pressure (hypertension) wonder if drinking alcohol will affect their condition. In many cases, drinking is fine for someone with high blood pressure -- but in moderation. In fact, moderate amounts of alcohol have actually been shown to help protect against heart disease and stroke.
It's important to remember that drinking too much can raise blood pressure even more in those with already high blood pressure or can cause a person with normal blood pressure to develop high blood pressure. Drinking too much alcohol also can harm the:
Usually, when doctors recommend "moderate" drinking, they mean one drink a day for women; two drinks a day for men. Because the alcohol content in drinks may vary, what counts as one drink also varies. When healthcare providers talk about one drink, they are referring to one of the following examples:
- 5 ounces of wine
- 12 ounces of beer
- 1½ ounces of 80-proof whiskey (or 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits).
If a person is regularly drinking more than a moderate amount of alcohol, reducing alcohol consumption will usually lower blood pressure. The amount the blood pressure drops will vary based on a number of factors, including:
- How much the person drank previously
- Current blood pressure
- Other medical conditions.
When heavy drinkers reduce their alcohol consumption to a moderate level, systolic blood pressure can drop by 2 to 4 points and diastolic blood pressure by 1 to 2 points, on average.