Alcohol and High Blood Pressure

While drinking alcohol in moderation is usually fine, consuming too much can make hypertension worse. Moderate drinking usually means one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men. People who drink alcohol while taking high blood pressure medicine should check with their doctor, since alcohol can have an adverse impact on the medicine's effectiveness.

High Blood Pressure and Alcohol: An Overview

People with high blood pressure (hypertension) often wonder if it is okay to drink alcohol. In many cases, drinking alcohol 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.
On the other hand, drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure even more in those with already high blood pressure or cause a person with normal blood pressure to develop hypertension. Too much alcohol also can harm the:
  • Liver
  • Brain
  • Heart.

What Is Moderate Drinking?

When healthcare providers recommend "moderate" drinking, they mean one drink a day for women; two drinks a day for men. Because the alcohol content in drinks can vary, what counts as one drink also varies. When healthcare providers talk about one drink, they are referring to one of the following examples:
  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 1½ ounces of 80-proof whiskey or 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits.

Effects of Alcohol on High Blood Pressure

If a person is regularly drinking more than a moderate amount of alcohol, reducing 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
  • His or her age
  • Current blood pressure
  • Other medical conditions.
On average, 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.
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