Alcohol may make people feel more relaxed, but it can also speed up the heart rate and elevate blood pressure. Alcohol and hypertension are closely linked: drinking too much and too often can make high blood pressure become a chronic issue. People who have a personal or family history of hypertension should maintain awareness of the relationship between alcohol and high blood pressure.
High blood pressure happens when the heartbeat causes blood to push against the walls of the arteries with high force. In addition to drinking, high blood pressure can be caused by genetics, a high-salt diet and a lack of exercise. Over time, if not addressed, high blood pressure can lead to other health problems such as heart disease. People who are worried about the effects of alcohol use and blood pressure should talk to a health care provider to get a blood pressure reading and learn more about their own personal risk of hypertension. People dealing with hypertension should also be aware that alcohol and blood pressure medications usually shouldn’t be mixed.
Can Alcohol Lower Blood Pressure?
There is not a great deal of evidence that alcohol and low blood pressure are linked for most people. Some research has shown that a single drink might have a positive effect on heart health. People who are light or moderate drinkers sometimes have lower rates of hypertension and heart attacks, which previously led many doctors to start recommending that people have one drink per day.
However, more recent research has shown that the link between light drinking and heart health is probably more complicated than it originally seemed. There are likely a lot of compounding factors — for example, people with certain healthy habits may be less likely to drink heavily and also may have lower blood pressure because of these other habits. Many doctors no longer recommend a drink a day and are aware that even moderate amounts of alcohol can negatively impact health.
Does Red Wine Lower Blood Pressure?
Unfortunately, the idea that red wine can lower blood pressure largely seems to be a myth. This idea was popular for some time, mainly due to the fact that red wine is known to contain polyphenols. Polyphenols are nutrients found in many foods including berries, nuts, and chocolate. The more polyphenols people eat, the less likely they are to have high blood pressure. This fact originally led experts to believe that red wine does lower blood pressure.
However, increasing numbers of recent studies have shown no link between red wine or other types of alcohol and blood pressure drop. Those who are looking to lower their blood pressure are better off stopping drinking altogether.
Can Alcohol Raise Blood Pressure?
Yes, there is a definite link between alcohol and high blood pressure. Even just having one drink can raise someone’s blood pressure temporarily, and two or more drinks almost always causes blood pressure to jump. For adults in the U.S., 16% of hypertension cases are linked to drinking. Alcohol abuse and high blood pressure is a particular problem, with binge drinkers and chronic drinkers being much more likely to have high blood pressure. Anyone who misuses alcohol or drinks too much is putting themselves at risk for hypertension and other cardiac problems.
Mixing Alcohol and Blood Pressure Medications
Experts recommend not mixing alcohol and blood pressure medication. For many different types of medications, drinking can increase the chances of negative side effects. This includes blood pressure medications like Vasotec, Prinivil, and Lopressor, whose generic names are enalapril, lisinopril, and hydrochlorothiazide. The risk of experiencing harmful drug and alcohol interactions is even higher in women.
Controlling Blood Pressure While Drinking Alcohol
Even drinking in moderation may affect blood pressure for some people, but it is safer than binge drinking or heavy drinking. People who are worried about hypertension should be aware of alcohol consumption guidelines to make sure they are drinking within safe limits. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines moderate drinking as one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. People who are underage, pregnant or have a history of alcohol use disorder should avoid drinking altogether. One drink includes 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor like vodka, whiskey or rum. Staying within these limits can help with the prevention of alcoholism and aid people in keeping their hearts healthy.
If you or someone you know struggles to drink in moderation and frequently has too much to drink, they might have a problem with alcohol addiction. Rehab programs and support groups can help people gain control over their drinking. If you are interested in finding out about alcohol treatment centers in South Florida, contact The Recovery Village Palm Beach.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Fact Sheets — Moderate Drinking.” October 18, 2016. Accessed September 6, 2019.
Loyke, Hubert F. “Five Phases of Blood Pressure in Alcoholics.” The Journal of Clinical Hypertension, June 10, 2013. Accessed September 6, 2019.
Miranda, Andreia Machado, et al. “Association between Polyphenol Intake and Hypertension in Adults and Older Adults: A Population-Based Study in Brazil.” PLoS One, October 28, 2016. Accessed September 6, 2019.
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. “High Blood Pressure.” Accessed September 6, 2019.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Harmful Interactions.” 2014. Accessed September 6, 2018.
Spaak, Jonas, et al. “Dose-related effects of red wine and alcohol on hemodynamics, sympathetic nerve activity, and arterial diameter.” American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology, February 1, 2008. Accessed September 6, 2019.