Does Alcohol Raise Blood Pressure?

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If you have high blood pressure, your doctor likely told you to cut back on alcohol. However, as the saying goes, “it’s the dose that makes the poison.” This is true for alcohol intake, too.

A glass of red wine may not be harmful. However, drinking alcohol in excess can cause serious health problems. For one, it raises your blood pressure. It also may interfere with the medication for high blood pressure control. Lastly, it has a negative impact on other problems that occur with high blood pressure. These include diabetes, high cholesterol, and fatty liver.

Keep reading to learn more about the impact of alcohol on your blood pressure and your health.  

What Happens If You Drink Too Much

Drinking alcohol in excess increases blood pressure. Scientists suggest that having more than three drinks at a time will increase blood pressure in the short term. Frequent binge drinking however can cause long-term increases in blood pressure.

What counts as “excessive drinking”? Binge drinking means five or more drinks within two hours for men and four or more drinks within two hours for women. “Heavy drinking” means drinking more than four drinks a day for men or more than three drinks daily for women. “Moderate drinking” is defined as drinking no more than two drinks daily for men or one drink daily for women.

Avoid drinking within these ranges. If you feel tempted to drink this much, it would be best to avoid alcohol altogether.

What counts as “a drink”? A drink equals 12 ounces (355 milliliters) of beer, 5 ounces (148 milliliters) of wine, or 1.5 ounces (44 milliliters) of 80-proof distilled spirits.

According to Dr. Lopez-Jimenez from Mayo Clinic, switching from heavy drinking to moderate drinking can decrease systolic blood pressure by roughly 5.5 mmHg and diastolic pressure by 4 mmHg. 

How Does Alcohol Increase Blood Pressure?

According to an extensive review published in 2014, there are different mechanisms and factors that explain the influence of alcohol on blood pressure. 

Blood pressure may spike because alcohol stimulates the central nervous system (CNS), which is in charge of the blood pressure. 

Alcohol also stimulates the sympathetic nervous system involved in “fight or flight response,” causing the release of adrenaline. This increases blood pressure and heart rate. 

Another way may involve baroreceptors. These are mechanosensitive nerve endings located in the blood vessels that function as arterial blood pressure “sensors.” They detect changes in blood pressure and try to balance the blood flow. However, alcohol makes them less responsive.

A fourth way involves the renin-angiotensin system (RAS). RAS plays a key role in blood pressure regulation and fluid balance. When blood pressure rises from alcohol use, plasma renin activity increases. This leads to more angiotensin II, which constricts the blood vessels.

A fifth way is linked with the stress hormone called “cortisol.” Alcohol increases cortisol levels, and cortisol increases blood pressure. 

Lastly, alcohol may cause direct damage to the blood vessels. Excess alcohol creates oxidative stress that causes damage to the cells including endothelial cells located in the inner linings of the blood vessels. As a result, blood vessels may become rigid. 

Alcohol, High Blood Pressure, And Metabolic Syndrome 

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of problems that occur together and increase the risk for heart disease and stroke. High blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, high blood sugar levels/diabetes, and high waist circumference are all part of it. 

Excess alcohol causes blood sugar imbalances (either too high or too low) and increases triglycerides levels. Alcohol also promotes weight gain. All these conditions can worsen high blood pressure and increase the risk for adverse effects, especially heart disease. 

Resveratrol From Red Wine: Is It Heart-Healthy?

Numerous studies support various benefits of resveratrol, including its positive impact on the heart and blood pressure. It helps prevent atherosclerosis and heart failure. It may also help prevent strokes and heart attacks, although more research is needed to confirm. Resveratrol has strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities. It’s also known for its anti-aging effect. The typical daily dose is 450 mg. Even high doses of resveratrol (1000 mg twice daily) have been used in research studies. Some supplements combine resveratrol with other heart-healthy compounds such as CoQ10 or grape seed extract. 

The concept of the “French paradox” is also well known. This concept describes the low rate of heart disease among French people. This low rate exists despite a diet high in fatty foods and the common habit of smoking. The French paradox is explained by French people’s consumption of red wine. 

If you enjoy red wine, it is fine to have a glass at dinner from time to time. But you don’t need to drink to get resveratrol. This compound can be found in other foods, pill form, and non-alcoholic red wines.