Few beverages get as much mixed press as alcohol. While moderate alcohol consumption may provide benefits that include reducing your risk of heart disease and diabetes, consuming too much often damages the liver and contributes to alcoholism. The effect alcohol has on your blood pressure is also related to how much you drink, and heavy drinking causes it to rise.
High Blood Pressure: The Silent Killer
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the United States, and high blood pressure, or hypertension as it is also known, is often a precursor to heart disease, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. High blood pressure is termed the silent killer because many people with high blood pressure are unaware they have it until it manifests as heart disease.
Alcohol and Blood Pressure
Heavy drinking, defined as having more than three alcoholic drinks per day, may contribute to high blood pressure by interfering with blood flow. Additionally, excessive alcoholic intake pushes nutrients away from your heart, which weakens it. One alcoholic drink is defined as 12 oz. of beer, 5 oz. of wine, or 1.5 oz. of distilled spirits, according to MayoClinic.com
How much does heavy drinking contribute to high blood pressure? About 2 to 4 mm/Hg in systolic blood pressure and 1 to 2 mm/Hg in diastolic blood pressure, notes Sheldon G. Sheps, M.D., of MayoClinic.com. Systolic blood pressure is the top number in a blood pressure reading and diastolic appears as the bottom number. Cutting back from heavy to moderate drinking has a marked impact on blood pressure. Moderate drinking is two drinks per day for men younger than 65, but if you are an older man or a woman, you should not exceed one drink daily. One drink a day for women of any age is considered moderate.
Keeping your blood pressure normal, or 120/80 mm/Hg, helps reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, and cutting back on drinking is one of many proven methods for reducing your blood pressure. It is also important to avoid smoking, monitor consumption of sodium in your diet and get plenty of exercise.