The Effects of Alcohol on Blood Pressure

A doctor taking the blood pressure of a patient next to an image of various glasses of alcohol

There is a link between high blood pressure and alcohol use. People who drink often are more likely to develop unhealthy blood pressure and heart disease. While it’s true that some people may be able to lower their blood pressure with moderate drinking, this idea is controversial and may only benefit certain groups of people.

Blood pressure is a measurement of the force of the blood pushing against the arteries. Unhealthy habits, including drinking too much, eating too much sodium and not exercising enough, can all lead to high blood pressure, also called hypertension. If someone is diagnosed with hypertension, their doctor may advise them to cut back from drinking to help lower their blood pressure. Learning more about alcohol and hypertension can help people determine when their drinking may be leading to unhealthy side effects.

How Does Alcohol Affect Blood Pressure?

The link between heavy alcohol use and high blood pressure is well-established. Drinking multiple drinks in one day causes a person’s blood pressure to rise, and drinking heavily on a regular basis usually leads to chronic high blood pressure problems. However, the effects of alcohol on blood pressure can be reversed if someone reduces or discontinues alcohol use. Heavy drinkers who are trying to cut back on their alcohol consumption should take care to reduce their alcohol use gradually – sudden alcohol detoxes can potentially cause dangerously high spikes in blood pressure. Substance abuse experts and doctors can help people come up with plans to reduce their alcohol use slowly and safely.

The association between light alcohol use and low blood pressure is much less clear. While some previous studies have found a link between moderate drinking and low blood pressure, many health care providers no longer recommend having one drink a day.

Anyone interested in learning more about the relationship between alcohol and high blood pressure can have their blood pressure checked by a medical professional and talk to them to see if reducing alcohol use might have an effect on their blood pressure measurements.

Positive Effects on Blood Pressure

Does red wine lower blood pressure? Red wine contains polyphenols, chemicals that have been shown to have positive health effects, including lowering blood pressure. For this reason, some medical professionals have previously recommended drinking one glass of red wine a day to reduce the risk of developing hypertension and heart disease.

However, several newer studies have failed to find a link between moderate alcohol use and blood pressure drop. Many experts now believe that moderate drinking may not help reduce hypertension. It is likely that many past studies that have found an effect didn’t account for other differences in genetics or habits among people who drank moderately. Additionally, whether or not someone sees a benefit from drinking in moderation may depend on their age. Drinking one drink a day might help people over 50, who are much more likely to have higher blood pressure. For younger people, the negative health effects of drinking often outweigh any potential benefits.

Negative Effects on Blood Pressure

Unhealthy habits, including drinking, can increase a person’s likelihood of developing hypertension. Anyone who consumes multiple drinks per day on a regular basis is likely to have high blood pressure and should have their blood pressure measurements taken by a health care provider. People struggling with alcohol abuse and high blood pressure are likely to develop liver damage if they continue to drink heavily. Because alcohol can be very addictive, it can be hard to cut back once someone becomes mentally or physically dependent on it. Rehab programs can help people learn how to live without alcohol, which can lead to better heart health and lower blood pressure.

Effect on Blood Pressure Medications

Alcohol and blood pressure medication often shouldn’t be mixed. High blood pressure drugs, including hydrochlorothiazide, clonidine and amlodipine, can have harmful interactions with alcohol. Alcohol can alter the body’s digestion and metabolism and cause high levels of medications to build up in the bloodstream. These effects can lead to dangerous drops in blood pressure, dizziness, fatigue and irregular heart rhythms.

Prevention of Alcohol-Induced Blood Pressure Issues

Alcohol consumption guidelines recommend that men drink no more than two drinks per day, and women consume no more than one drink a day. Consuming this amount of alcohol is considered moderate drinking. “One drink” is defined as 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor.

People with high blood pressure usually don’t have any symptoms unless it goes untreated and starts causing other health issues. High blood pressure can cause complications, like:

  • Aneurysms
  • Kidney disease
  • Cardiac disease
  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes

People who have hypertension can take medication to lower their blood pressure, but in people who drink heavily, the medications may not work as well and may lead to increased side effects. People who misuse alcohol should focus on getting help in cutting back or avoiding alcohol in order to lower their blood pressure.

If you are interested in learning more about drug and alcohol treatment centers near Portland, Oregon, or Vancouver, Washington, call The Recovery Village Ridgefield today. Representatives are available to discuss our center’s evidence-based treatment options for drug and alcohol addiction.

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 and Hypertension in Adults and Older Adults: A Population-Based 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.” Revised 2014. Accessed August 29, 2019.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “What is a Standard Drink?” Accessed August 29, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.