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Alcohol: Does it affect blood pressure?

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Jan 16, 2021.

Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure to unhealthy levels. Having more than three drinks in one sitting temporarily raises your blood pressure, but repeated binge drinking can lead to long-term increases.

To understand how much alcohol is too much and how cutting back can lower your blood pressure, it may be helpful to know the definitions of excessive drinking.

  • Binge drinking is defined as four or more drinks within two hours for women and five or more drinks within two hours for men.
  • Moderate drinking is up to one drink a day for women, two for men.
  • Heavy drinking is more than three drinks a day for women, four for men.

Heavy drinkers who cut back to moderate drinking can lower their top number in a blood pressure reading (systolic pressure) by about 5.5 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and their bottom number (diastolic pressure) by about 4 mm Hg.

If you have high blood pressure, avoid alcohol or drink alcohol only in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men.

A drink is 12 ounces (355 milliliters) of beer, 5 ounces (148 milliliters) of wine or 1.5 ounces (44 milliliters) of 80-proof distilled spirits.

Keep in mind that alcohol contains calories and may contribute to unwanted weight gain — a risk factor for high blood pressure Also, alcohol can interact with certain blood pressure medications, affecting the level of the medication in your body or increasing side effects.

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