There is a correlation between our hypertension and the amount of alcohol we consume. The relationship is not straightforward and can differ between men and women and between the races. This article examines that relationship and looks at what it means for individuals.
The Relationship Between Alcohol and High Blood Pressure – the research:
A meta-analysis of 15 randomized controlled trials in which alcohol reduction was the only intervention between active and control groups found that:
- alcoholic beverage reduction lowered systolic and diastolic pressures,
- with a dose-response relationship.
To put it another way, the less alcoholic beverages consumed the lower the subject’s blood pressure.
Additionally, an older, randomized controlled crossover trial found that after an alcohol-reduction induced drop in blood pressure, the resumption of baseline alcohol intake increased blood pressure back to pre-study levels.
That is to say, reverting back to the pre-trial levels of alcohol consumption caused the subject’s blood pressures to revert to the readings before the trial began.
[important][/important]Taken together, the studies show that hypertension associated with alcohol drinking may be reversible with dose reduction or abstinence.
Gender and race differences:
The association between hypertension and light-to-moderate drinking, that is up to 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women, is more complicated.
A study of 66,510 light to moderate drinkers found that among women (but not men), there was lower hypertension prevalence compared to abstainers. This finding was also confirmed by another large scale study.
Racial considerations complicate the picture even more. Relative to abstinence:
- black men who are low to moderate drinkers have a higher risk of developing hypertension than black women and Caucasians of either gender; and
- Asian men are at higher risk than non-Asian populations.
Alcohol and secondary hypertension:
Alcohol induced high blood pressure is thought to be the most prevalent form of secondary hypertension. This is borne out by the findings a Japanese study, which attributed alcohol as the cause of high blood pressure in 34.5% of men and 2.6% of women.
Does red wine really lower high blood pressure?
The popular view is that red wine is beneficial for cardiovascular health and for reducing hypertension. This view has been refuted by several studies.
For example, a study of healthy men showed that daily consumption of greater than 3 alcoholic drinks per day, either as red wine or beer, for 4 weeks resulted in similar increases in systolic blood pressure and heart rate. while de-alcoholized red wine was no different than abstinence with regard to blood pressure.
This finding shows that ethanol is the chemical responsible for blood pressure elevation, regardless of the beverage.
Certain red grape varieties are particularly high in antioxidants and so too is the wine made from them. It is likely, that any benefits there are from drinking red wine come from the antioxidants.
What does this mean for an individual?
Some alcohol intake seems to be beneficial for overall health. Thus, light drinking of any type of alcohol should not be discouraged, but alcohol consumption should be limited to one unit a day for women and two units a day for men.
[important][/important]For people with hypertension, reducing alcohol consumption or abstaining can help to lower your high blood pressure to normal levels naturally.