Regular Alcohol Consumption May Raise Blood Pressure in Adults Without Hypertension

A recent analysis links both low and high levels of alcohol consumption to detectable increases in blood pressure levels, even in those with no history of hypertension.

The study, published in the journal Hypertension, analyzed the results from seven international investigations on the relationship between alcohol and blood pressure. According to the study’s authors, while there’s substantial evidence suggesting that alcohol may contribute to hypertension, the details of the relationship are unclear. In this study, researchers aimed to better understand the relationship and the impacts of heavy and light drinking.

Researchers analyzed a combined 19,548 adults ranging in age from 20 to their early 70s at the start of the studies. Of the participants, 65 percent were men. None of the participants had been previously diagnosed with high blood pressure or other cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, liver disease, alcoholism, or binge drinking. The studies were conducted in the United States, Korea, and Japan and published between 1997 and 2021.

For their investigation, researchers reviewed health data from the participants collected over the course of five years. They compared the data of adults who drank alcohol with non-drinkers.

The study found that systolic blood pressure rose 1.25 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) in people who consumed an average of 12 grams of alcohol daily. Those that consumed 48 grams of alcohol per day showed an increase of 4.9 mm Hg in their blood pressure levels. 

Results also showed that diastolic blood pressure rose from 1.14 mm Hg in people who consumed an average of 12 grams of alcohol per day, rising to 3.1 mm Hg in people who drank an average of 48 grams per day. Notably, these associations were seen only in males. 

"We found no beneficial effects in adults who drank a low level of alcohol compared to those who did not drink alcohol," said senior study author Marco Vinceti, MD, PhD, a professor of epidemiology and public health in the Medical School of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia University in Italy. "We were somewhat surprised to see that consuming an already-low level of alcohol was also linked to higher blood pressure changes over time compared to no consumption, although far less than the blood pressure increase seen in heavy drinkers." 

The study also found that participants starting with higher blood pressure readings had a stronger link between their alcohol intake and blood pressure over time.

According to researchers, these results suggest an association between alcohol consumption and hypertension. However, they noted that more research is necessary to establish whether the relationship is causal 

"Alcohol is certainly not the sole driver of increases in blood pressure; however, our findings confirm it contributes in a meaningful way. Limiting alcohol intake is advised, and avoiding it is even better," Vinceti said.