Just one alcoholic drink a day is linked to higher blood pressure, study shows

Routinely drinking alcohol – as little as one drink a day – is associated with an increase in blood pressure readings, even in adults without hypertensionaccording to new research analysis.

The research, published Monday in the American Heart Association’s journal Hypertension, analyzed data from seven international studies and found that people who drank even one alcoholic drink a day were more likely to have higher blood pressure compared to non-drinkers.

“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 Dr. Marco Vinceti in one news release. “We were somewhat surprised to see that consumption of an already low level of alcohol was also associated with higher blood pressure changes over time compared to no consumption – although far less than the increase in blood pressure seen in heavy drinkers.”

The analysis included data from more than 19,000 adults in the United States, Korea and Japan. Alcohol consumption was based on grams of alcohol consumed, not the number of drinks, to keep measurements consistent across countries with different types of drinks and sizes of “standard drinks.”

After reviewing data from all participants for more than five years, the researchers found the systolic, or peak, blood pressure increased:

1.25 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) in people who consumed an average of 12 grams of alcohol per day 4.9 mm Hg in people who consumed an average of 48 grams of alcohol per day.

In the United States, 14 grams of alcohol is equivalent to about a 12-ounce serving of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine or a 1.5-ounce shot of distilled spirits, the release notes read.

For diastolic or bottom number, blood pressure it increased:

1.14 mm Hg in people consuming an average of 12 grams of alcohol per day 3.1 mm Hg in people consuming an average of 48 grams of alcohol per day

Diastolic blood pressure is not as strong a predictor of heart disease risk compared to systolic, the release notes, adding that these associations were seen in men, who accounted for 65% of study participants, but not in women. The systolic results were seen in both.

High blood pressure is known as a “silent killer” and can increase a person’s risk of heart attack, stroke, chronic kidney disease, and other serious conditions.

“Alcohol is certainly not the only driver of increases in blood pressure, but our results confirm that it contributes in a meaningful way,” Vinceti added. “Limiting alcohol intake is recommended, and avoiding it is even better.”

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