A recent review of seven studies covering more than 19,000 adults found that taking one alcoholic drink a day for more than four years is associated with a rise in blood pressure, even if a person previously had normal blood pressure (Hypertension, July 31, 2023). None of the people in the study had previously been diagnosed with high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, alcoholism or binge drinking.
People who drank a little less than one drink a day had systolic blood pressure increased by 1.25 mm Hg more than people who did not drink any alcohol. A drink is defined as a 12-ounce can of beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, or a 1.5-ounce shot glass of hard liquor. Those who took four drinks a day (48 grams of alcohol) had a rise in systolic blood pressure of 4.9 mm Hg greater than those who did not drink alcohol. One drink a day raised diastolic blood pressure by only 1.14 mm Hg over non-drinkers, but only in men.
This is the first study to show that there was a continuous increase in blood pressure in people with either low or high intake of alcohol. The study also found that alcohol caused a higher rise in blood pressure in those who had higher normal starting blood pressure. Drinking alcohol causes a rise in adrenalin and cortisol that can constrict arteries to raise blood pressure and increase risk for heart attacks and strokes.
No Amount of Alcohol is Healthful
The World Heart Federation reported that taking one drink a day does not help to prevent heart attacks (Clinical Nutrition, Feb 1, 2022;41(2):348-355). A study of 371,463 individuals found that taking one drink a day does not help to prevent heart attacks and appears to increase risk for heart attacks (Clinical Nutrition, Feb 1, 2022;41(2):348-355). Even low amounts of alcohol increase heart attack risk, and the more you drink, the greater your chance of suffering a heart attack (JAMA Netw Open, March 2022;5(3):e223849).
For many years, the alcoholic beverage industry has promoted studies showing that moderate drinkers live slightly longer than non-drinkers, but the non-drinking groups in these studies have included people who gave up alcohol on their doctors’ instructions: those with high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, some types of cancer, diseases of the heart, kidney, liver or lungs or other health problems, as well as recovering alcoholics. A study with a 20-year-follow-up of 4,028 18-to-64-year-old adults found that when the people who had stopped drinking for medical reasons were removed from the control group, moderate drinkers did not live longer than non-drinkers (PLoS Medicine, Nov 2, 2021;18(11):e1003819).
Many people have the mistaken belief that it is healthful for women to take up to one drink per day and for men to take up to two drinks per day. Almost 30 percent of North Americans drink more than that. The studies I have listed in this article and many more suggest that no amount of alcohol is beneficial. Whatever you decide about your own consumption of alcohol, do not base your decision on bad information from the alcoholic beverage industry.
Alcohol Does Not Appear to Prevent Heart Disease
Alcohol Increases Risk for Heart Attacks and Cancers