Alcohol And Blood Pressure

Limiting yourself to one alcoholic drink a day may not be enough to avoid detrimental impacts on your health.

Limiting yourself to one alcoholic drink a day may not be enough to avoid detrimental impacts on your health, according to a study co-authored by Dr. Paul Whelton, Show Chwan Chair in Global Public Health at the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. 

The study, published in Hypertension, confirmed for the first time that both low and high daily alcohol intake are continuously associated with increases in blood pressure levels, potentially increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The findings were the result of a combined analysis of seven international research studies conducted between 1997 and 2021 in almost 20,000 adults in the U.S., Korea and Japan in whom the association between usual intake of alcohol and blood pressure could be observed for periods of four to 12 years. None of the participants had been previously diagnosed with high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases or alcoholism.

close up of hand reaching for a bottle on a grocery store shelf
(Photo by iStock)

Those who consumed an average of 12 grams of alcohol per day — about equivalent to 1.5 ounces of liquor or one 11-ounce beer — saw systolic blood pressure rise 1.25 mmHg. Consuming 48 grams of alcohol per day — about equivalent to 6 ounces of liquor or four 11-ounce beers — saw a systolic blood pressure increase of 4.9 mmHg. 

The findings may be most impactful on those who already have higher than desired blood pressure levels, said Whelton.

“We found participants with higher starting blood pressure readings had a stronger link between alcohol intake and blood pressure changes over time,” Whelton said. “This suggests that people with a trend towards increased, though still not high, blood pressure may benefit the most from low to no alcohol consumption.”

Finding a linear correlation between alcohol consumption and systolic blood pressure is important because systolic pressure — the force against the artery walls as the heart contracts — is a strong predictor of cardiovascular disease risk.