How Alcohol Affects Blood Pressure
Last Updated: February 15, 2023
People who are heavy drinkers nearly always have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Conversely, studies of alcohol and blood pressure have shown that people who are light drinkers may sometimes have lower blood pressure.
If someone is worried about hypertension and alcohol use, they should get their blood pressure levels tested and talk to their doctor about how alcohol might be affecting their blood pressure. People who keep drinking despite having health problems may be struggling with alcohol use disorder, and usually benefit from professional treatment options that can help them gain control over their drinking.
Ways Alcohol Can Affect Blood Pressure
High blood pressure occurs when blood pushes too hard against the walls of the arteries as it flows through them. If left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to complications like aneurysms, eye problems, heart attacks and strokes.
The relationship between alcohol and blood pressure is complex. High blood pressure and alcohol use are linked — studies show that unhealthy lifestyle habits, including excessive drinking, are risk factors for developing hypertension. On the other hand, other research has shown that there may be a link between alcohol and low blood pressure for people who drink one glass of alcohol a day.
Effect on Moderate Drinkers
Some studies have shown that people who drink in moderation are more likely to have lower blood pressure, in addition to a lower risk of heart disease and stroke. After drinking one alcoholic drink, a person’s arteries may dilate, leading them to have lower blood pressure. However, after two drinks, alcohol begins to make the heart beat faster and more irregularly, which can raise a person’s blood pressure. People who limit their drinking to one drink a day may find that they are more likely to have healthy blood pressure levels.
Does red wine lower blood pressure? Red wine contains nutrients called polyphenols. These are also found in foods like chocolate, berries, beans and nuts. Polyphenols may help with health issues related to digestion, heart problems and diabetes, and eating them may reduce people’s risk of hypertension. However, one study showed that one drink of alcohol was capable of lowering blood pressure, regardless of whether it was red wine or another type of alcohol, meaning that any type of alcoholic drink can positively impact a person’s blood pressure.
The link between moderate alcohol use and blood pressure drop has become more controversial in recent years. It may be true, for example, that people who drink limited amounts of alcohol may also be more likely to engage in other healthy behaviors that lower their risk of hypertension. Additionally, alcohol use may affect people’s blood pressure differently based on their genetics, race and age. Anyone concerned about high blood pressure should cut back on their drinking and speak to their doctor about how alcohol use may be affecting their health.
Effect on Heavy Drinkers
Medical professionals know that there is a link between alcohol abuse and high blood pressure. In about 16% of people with hypertension, alcohol consumption is a contributing factor. People who drink heavily nearly always have high blood pressure, and this can lead to other side effects, like fatty liver disease and heart disease. A person’s blood pressure usually drops once they stop misusing alcohol, but they may be at risk for hypertension again if they relapse and resume drinking. Going through a treatment program can help people learn to manage their alcohol use to prevent more serious health problems from developing later on.
Alcohol Use and Blood Pressure Medications
Because alcohol can cause harmful interactions with different cardiovascular drugs, it’s usually not a good idea to combine alcohol and blood pressure medication. Sometimes, alcohol use can send blood pressure medication into overdrive, which can lead to dangerous drops in blood pressure or adverse side effects. If someone isn’t sure whether they should combine alcohol with their blood pressure medication, they should speak to their doctor or pharmacist to obtain additional information.
*The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Consult your doctor if you have any questions or concerns regarding your medications.
Guidelines for Drinking Alcohol For Blood Pressure Regulation
Alcohol consumption guidelines define moderate drinking as one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. Within this range, alcohol use may give certain groups of people beneficial effects, including lower blood pressure. However, the prevention of alcoholism is important. People who are more at risk of alcohol misuse, including those with a personal or family history of alcoholism or substance use disorder, shouldn’t start drinking because they hope it will help with hypertension. Doctors can help people figure out other medication or lifestyle changes that can help people manage their blood pressure levels.
Anyone who is worried about hypertension and has trouble limiting their drinking to moderate levels can talk to a substance abuse counselor to help determine if their drinking has developed into alcohol misuse. Rehab facilities can help people develop the tools they need to live a sober, healthy lifestyle.
Alcohol Detox and Treatment
Detox is the process of a substance being metabolized and removed from the body. Alcohol detox may cause mild to severe symptoms, depending on how long a person used alcohol and how much they tended to drink.
It is safest to undergo alcohol withdrawal treatment at a medical detox facility. When someone stops using alcohol after drinking for a long time, they are at risk of extreme side effects, such as a heart attack or stroke. Medical professionals can help facilitate the detox process by monitoring people’s symptoms and providing medication or life support if any medical complications arise. The alcohol detox timeline typically begins with withdrawal symptoms eight hours after use is discontinued, peaking at 24–72 hours and subsiding in 5–7 days.
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- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Fact Sheets — Moderate Drinking.” October 18, 2016. Accessed August 29, 2019.
- Loyke, Hubert F. “Five Phases of Blood Pressure in Alcoholics.” The Journal of Clinical Hypertension, June 10, 2013. Accessed August 23, 2019.
- Miranda, Andreia Machado, et al. “Association between Polyphenol Intake an[…]ased Study in Brazil.” PLoS One, October 28, 2016. Accessed August 29, 2019.
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. “High Blood Pressure.” Accessed August 29, 2019.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Harmful Interactions.” 2014. Accessed August 29, 2019.
- Spaak, Jonas, et al. “Dose-related effects of red wine and alc[…]nd arterial diameter.” American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology, February 1, 2008. Accessed August 29, 2019.
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