Drinking Even a Little Alcohol Each Day Is Tied to This Health Problem

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Those who enjoy an evening beer or glass of wine might pay a price in the form of higher blood pressure.

A 2023 analysis of data from seven prior scientific studies that tracked more than 19,000 adults found that drinking more on a daily basis is associated with a steady rise in systolic blood pressure over the years. The findings were published in Hypertension, a journal of the American Heart Association.

Even a single drink is associated with higher systolic blood pressure readings for those who consume alcohol compared with those who do not.

Systolic blood pressure is the “top” number in a blood pressure reading. It measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats.

In a summary of the findings, analysis co-author Dr. Marco Vinceti, a professor of epidemiology and public health in the Medical School of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia University in Italy, says:

“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.”

The researchers found that systolic blood pressure rose by 1.25 mmHg (millimeters of mercury), a unit of pressure, in people who consumed an average of 12 grams of alcohol per day. Systolic blood pressure rose by 4.9 mmHg in people who consumed an average of 48 grams of alcohol per day.

In the U.S., 14 grams of alcohol are equivalent to:

  • 12 ounces of regular beer
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • A 1.5-ounce shot of distilled spirits

Diastolic blood pressure — the bottom number in a blood pressure reading — rose more modestly in men who drink, and it did not meaningfully change in women who drink.

The American Heart Association notes that diastolic blood pressure measures the force against artery walls between heartbeats “and is not as strong a predictor of heart disease risk in comparison to systolic.”

Although none of the participants in the studies had hypertension (high blood pressure) when the studies began, the researchers noted that those with higher blood pressure readings at the outset were more likely to see their blood pressure rise over time as they drank alcohol.

The researchers say this finding suggests that those with higher blood pressure readings might benefit most from abstaining from alcohol.

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