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Alcoholism and Blood Pressure: What You Should Know

By Neha Kashyap
Alcohol-related high blood pressure affects about 16% of people in the U.S.

Alcoholism can damage the body in several ways, your blood pressure included. If you or a loved one has a problem with drinking, it’s important to know how alcohol can affect blood pressure and what to do about it.

Effects of Alcohol on Blood Pressure

Alcohol-related hypertension, or high blood pressure, impacts about 16% of the population. About half of U.S. adults have some form of high blood pressure or take blood pressure medications, the CDC says. 

A study in The Journal of Clinical Hypertension says that just one drink may raise blood pressure for at least 2 hours. If you regularly have more than two drinks, you could be at risk for long-term high blood pressure. 

“Repeated alcohol consumption can lead to long-term blood pressure abnormalities, which can present health risks that need to be medically monitored [or] managed,” Ashley McGee, RN, Vice President of Nursing at Mountainside Alcohol and Drug Treatment Center in Connecticut, tells WebMD Connect to Care. 

Early hypertension usually doesn’t bring on noticeable symptoms, but it can slowly damage your arteries, kidney, brain, and heart. Untreated hypertension can eventually lead to heart attack and stroke. 

Men are more likely than women to have high blood pressure, the CDC says. In fact, even small amounts of alcohol can increase hypertension risk in men. As for binge drinking, younger men are more likely to experience high blood pressure from excess alcohol use than younger women. 

But stroke risk can increase in men and women of all ages who binge drink regularly. The CDC defines binge drinking as four drinks in 2 hours for women and five drinks in 2 hours for men. 

For people with a history of hypertension, a mere ounce of alcohol has been linked to increased pressure on their hearts. 

“In patients who have cardiac risk factors, hypertension included, I generally advise less than one to two times per week, [or] at most two to four drinks per week, but ideally, less than that,” says David Ishizawar, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. “There is no ‘safe’ quantity of alcohol that an individual with chronic health problems can consume.”

Alcohol withdrawal, one of the first steps of alcoholism treatment, could also affect blood pressure. This is partly why it’s important to undergo detox under medical supervision.

“For some, their blood pressure will be elevated due to withdrawal and the stress it causes on the body to recover,” McGee says. “For others, blood pressure will be lowered due to sickness related to withdrawal symptoms. Managing a client’s blood pressure is something that is closely monitored by medical staff during a client’s detoxification period.” 

Get Help With Problem Drinking 

High blood pressure is one of the many dangers of problem drinking. If you feel you have a problem with alcohol, WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help.

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