Alcohol and Blood Pressure: How Much and What Types of Alcohol Can Affect Hypertension

Is there a connection between alcohol and blood pressure? Is high blood pressure due to alcohol use reversible?

alcohol and blood pressure

Your consumption of alcohol and high blood pressure may be tied to each other.

The fact that alcohol and blood pressure are associated has been known since the 1960s, but that hasn’t stopped researchers from exploring this association, given the fact that drinking patterns have changed (binge drinking is on the rise) and that hypertension remains the leading cause of cardiovascular disease, the biggest killer worldwide. So does alcohol raise blood pressure? And just how much, how often, and what types of alcoholic beverages are problematic? The strong connection between alcohol and blood pressure issues may surprise you.

How Much Does Alcohol Increase Blood Pressure

You don’t have to drink excessively to fall victim to alcohol’s effects on high blood-pressure, as a large study published in Clinical Epidemiology (January 2013) showed us an alcohol blood pressure link.[1] Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at almost 4,000 current drinkers without hypertension and found that alcohol increased their blood pressure by 1 mmHg for every 10 grams consumed per day.[1]

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How Much Alcohol Is in a Drink?

A standard drink is equal to 14 grams (0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol, more than enough to raise your blood pressure by 1 mmHg. Generally, this amount of pure alcohol is found in:

  • 12-ounces of beer
  • 8-ounces of malt liquor
  • 5-ounces of wine
  • 1.5-ounces or a “shot” of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, or whiskey)

The researchers concluded that any amount of alcohol above 10 grams raises your systolic blood pressure. This information contradicts the previously held belief that small amounts of alcohol (less than 2 drinks a day for men and less than 1 drink a day for women) actually helped blood pressure.

Types of Alcohol and Blood Pressure

The type of alcoholic drink doesn’t matter. Hard alcohol, beer, wine, even red wine, all increase your blood pressure and risk of hypertension. That doesn’t mean that certain types of alcoholic drinks, such as red wine, don’t contain other compounds that may be beneficial to health—such as the polyphenol compounds like resveratrol in red wine. Nevertheless, in terms of blood pressure, which is the most common cause of heart attacks and strokes, alcohol is no good!

Binge Drinking Is Especially Dangerous for High Blood Pressure

Binge drinking, a habit that is on the rise in the U.S., is particularly bad for blood pressure in men, the researchers found. Drinking more than five drinks in one day, especially on more than one occasion per week, is considered frequent binge drinking and increases both systolic (top number) and diastolic blood pressure (bottom number). Not only that, a previous study found that if you already have hypertension and you binge drink, your risk for suffering a stroke increases immediately and dramatically.[2]

How to Lower Your Alcohol and High Blood Pressure Risk

The good news is that the effects of alcohol and high blood pressure are considered “rapidly reversible”.[3] Even in alcoholics, half of whom have blood pressures greater than 160/90 mm Hg, high blood pressure values have been found to normalize when they abstain from drinking.[3]

If you’re a man with hypertension currently drinking more than two drinks a day, or a woman consuming more than one, try cutting back or abstaining altogether for the next few weeks and watch your blood pressure fall. You may you have less of a need for hypertension medication if you can keep your alcohol consumption low. And, decreasing alcohol is only one of many “natural” treatments for high blood pressure. Look here for more ideas on natural high blood pressure remedies.


[1] Clin Epidemiol. 2013;5:21-7.

[2] Curr Hypertens Rep. 2011 Jun;13(3):208-13.

[3] Hypertension.1999; 33: 79-82.

Originally published in 2013, this post is regularly updated.

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Comments
  • This was very informative, and it’s great to know the effects are reversible. Only one thing bothered me at the end of it… the statement “try cutting back or abstaining altogether”… I did read elsewhere that suddenly abstaining can cause a spike in blood pressure for days, so for heavy drinkers it is best to wean off of the alcohol. Just wanted to point that out.

  • I NOTICED THIS! We had a blood pressure machine in our lunchroom at work. I picked up the nasty habit of binge drinking in college and every weekend for nearly 20 years would down a good ten drinks. Had two bottles of red wine on a Saturday and was still feeling nasty on Monday. Decided to try out the BP thing that day and was shocked to see 158/105 as I obstainded from Alcohol during the week I kept checking. Teus was 140s/90s then 130s/lower 90s and returned to 120/80 on Friday. Drank less the next weekend but noticed it was still elevated again on Monday but not as bad and returned to normal quicker this time. My Dads side has a history of Hypertension, also most are heavy drinkers on his side as well. As much as I love my red wine I decided to quit four months ago and feel much healthier.

  • kathleen

    this is false. Wine lowers my blood pressure every time.

  • kathleen

    this is false. Wine lowers my blood pressure every time .

  • Dan H.

    Why I have no explanation for it, I recently began drinking vodka and fruit juice in the evening and my blood pressure has come down so much that I have been able to eliminate one of the 2 BP drugs that I was on. Beer on the other hand will cause a temporary drop in me, but my BP always spikes the next day.

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