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To Drink or Not to Drink: High Blood Pressure and Alcohol

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Is Alcohol Good for High Blood Pressure? continued...

“Generally a woman 35 or younger isn’t dealing with blood pressure or vascular issues,” Klatsky says. “But I would still advise against her drinking at all because of the other risks involved. The general rule is that young people are not better off light-moderate drinkers because their heart attack risk is pretty low and won’t see any benefits from drinking.”

The bottom line, Klatsky says, is you can’t make a drinking rule that applies broadly for people with high blood pressure.

“There can be benefits related to light-moderate drinking -- like the antioxidant effect and cholesterol drop with red wine -- but likely that’s not related to blood pressure,” Klatsky says. “Either beneficial or harmful, the decision from a medical viewpoint is that it depends on the person’s entire health profile.”

A Note for Red Wine Lovers

Research has not proven that wine is linked to lowering blood pressure, says James Beckerman, MD, a cardiologist at the Providence St. Vincent Heart Clinic in Portland, OR.

A Dutch study showed that heart-healthy nutrients called polyphenols in red wine help prevent heart disease, but not because of a drop in blood pressure. Research shows that the polyphenols improve the cells lining the blood vessels, and do improve blood flow and heart health. The jury is still out, though, on whether this could potentially improve high blood pressure in severe cases.

Klatsky agrees. “One glass of red wine isn’t going to improve your blood pressure,” he says. “Ultimately, it’s lifestyle changes: low salt, optimal weight and exercise, and medication if necessary.”

Do you shudder at the thought of giving up your vino altogether? If you’ve been advised against drinking for very high blood pressure, there may be salvation in one kind of wine: nonalcoholic.

One study found that three glasses of nonalcoholic red wine a day over a month led to a significant drop in blood pressure in men with heart disease risk factors. But men who drank red wine with alcohol, or 3 ounces of gin, had no change in their blood pressure. Researchers think that the alcohol in the wine weakens any antioxidant benefit to blood pressure.

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