How Does Alcohol Impact Blood Pressure?

Last Updated: April 26, 2024

Nearly half of adults in the United States struggle with some degree of high blood pressure. Alcohol can affect your blood pressure, and heavy alcohol use can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure. Alcohol can also affect your blood pressure in other ways, such as by interacting with blood pressure medicines.

Key Takeaways

  • Drinking temporarily lowers a person’s blood pressure right after drinking.
  • Drinking heavily increases a person’s blood pressure over time.
  • People who drink heavily should talk to their doctor about how alcohol is impacting their blood pressure.
  • Alcohol-related increases in blood pressure can lead to further health problems if left untreated.

How Does Alcohol Affect Blood Pressure?

The heart circulates blood throughout the body by creating pressure that moves the blood through blood vessels. Blood pressure is a measurement of how hard the blood is pushing against the walls of the blood vessels as the heart pumps blood. High blood pressure can be bad for someone’s health because it can cause stress on the walls of blood vessels and organs, leading to problems like kidney disease, heart attack and stroke.

Heavy alcohol use has two effects on blood pressure. It causes a drop in blood pressure right after drinking and then an increase in blood pressure around 12 hours after drinking. When alcohol is used heavily for a prolonged period of time, it can lead to chronically elevated blood pressure — a condition referred to as hypertension.

There are many different alcohol-related factors that can increase blood pressure. These include:

  • Increased renin: This hormone increases fluid retention and constricts blood vessels.
  • Baroreceptor effects: Alcohol changes the sensitivity of receptors that help control blood pressure, making blood pressure higher.
  • Increased cortisol: This stress hormone increases blood pressure.
  • Nervous system changes: Changes to the sympathetic nervous system lead to increased blood pressure.
  • Increased calcium levels: Calcium level increases can increase blood pressure by promoting constriction of arteries.

Does Alcohol Raise or Lower Blood Pressure?

Alcohol causes a brief drop in blood pressure in the 12 hours after it is used but then creates a prolonged elevation in blood pressure. When alcohol is used repeatedly, the elevated blood pressure becomes chronic, leading to long-term high blood pressure.

There is a prevalent myth that a small amount of alcohol each day is good for your blood pressure and heart health. Red wine, specifically, is incorrectly thought to improve blood pressure. The effect has been found to be more likely due to either lifestyle factors or the grapes that red wine contains, not the alcohol. Alcohol itself is not a healthy tool for controlling blood pressure and staying healthy.

Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Blood Pressure Medications

Alcohol and blood pressure medicines should generally not be mixed. Alcohol is difficult for the body to process and adds stress to the liver. The liver must divert its resources to metabolizing alcohol, making it process other medicines more slowly. This can cause the medications to stay active in your blood for longer while your body is processing alcohol, which can increase the effects of the medications.

In addition to increasing the effects of blood pressure medicine, alcohol also causes a drop in blood pressure right after it is used. This effect, combined with the increased effects of blood pressure medicine, can lead to drops in blood pressure that can cause dizziness or even make you pass out.

Will Quitting Alcohol Lower Blood Pressure?

Alcohol is the cause of high blood pressure in about 16% of adults in the United States. This increases the risk of strokes, heart attacks and other dangerous health conditions. While blood pressure medicine can help to reduce blood pressure, combining blood pressure medicine with alcohol creates its own set of risks and is generally not recommended.

Quitting alcohol will typically help lower blood pressure by a significant amount, often within days or weeks of stopping drinking. It is important that people struggling to give up drinking seek help from medical professionals to oversee the withdrawal and recovery process. Those trying to recover from alcohol misuse often experience setbacks or relapses. Once a person starts drinking again, their hypertension will return.

Relationship Between Alcohol Withdrawal and Blood Pressure

While becoming sober helps normalize a person’s blood pressure in the long term, people who want to stop drinking should know about alcohol withdrawal and blood pressure. Withdrawal occurs when people who drink heavily give up alcohol. It can cause symptoms like anxiety, shaking, nausea, sweating and trouble sleeping. During alcohol withdrawal, blood pressure spikes are common. Someone who is detoxing from alcohol usually has elevated blood pressure. This problem is worse in people who drink heavily or have been drinking for longer time periods.

Anyone trying to quit drinking cold turkey can have dangerous levels of blood pressure from alcohol withdrawal. The safest way for someone to detox from alcohol is to go to a medical facilitySubstance use professionals can help people gradually taper off alcohol to prevent dangerous side effects. Doctors can also monitor people’s heart rate and blood pressure and provide life-saving measures if people suddenly experience extreme withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment in Orlando, FL

While stopping alcohol is an essential step for those wanting to achieve a healthy blood pressure, someone with an alcohol addiction will find it difficult or even nearly impossible to stop using alcohol. Recovering from an alcohol addiction can be hard, but the health benefits it provides are well worth the effort.

If you or your loved one is struggling to stop using alcohol, the Orlando Recovery Center can help. Using an evidence-based approach to medical detox, we help people struggling with alcohol addiction to detox as safely and as comfortably as possible. We also provide state-of-the-art rehab services to help you maintain the sobriety you achieve during detox. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you begin a healthier, alcohol-free life in recovery.

FAQs on Alcohol and Blood Pressure

Does Beer Raise Blood Pressure?

Beer and other alcoholic drinks raise blood pressure when used heavily. Someone who consistently drinks two or more beers a day is at an increased risk of having high blood pressure.

Does Alcohol Raise Blood Pressure the Next Day?

Light to moderate amounts of alcohol use may not have a meaningful impact on blood pressure; however, heavy drinking can. The elevation in blood pressure that alcohol creates generally occurs about 12 hours or more after drinking. Because most people drink heavily in the evening, this increased blood pressure will often occur the following day.

Does Alcohol Lower Blood Pressure Immediately?

In the short term, alcohol can lower blood pressure. This effect occurs quickly but is short-lived. Alcohol ultimately leads to high blood pressure that can become chronic when heavy alcohol use is continued.

Can Red Wine Lower Blood Pressure?

There is some evidence that using one glass of red wine a day can help promote a healthy blood pressure. However, this is not thought to be due to the alcohol the wine contains. Rather, it’s believed to be caused either by the lifestyle of those who use wine in moderation or by the flavonoids that wine contains.

Sources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Facts About Hypertension.” July 12, 2022. Accessed August 25, 2022.

Tasnim, Sara; et al. “Effect of alcohol on blood pressure.” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, July 2020. Accessed August 25, 2022.

Husain, Kazim; Ansari, Rais A.; Ferder, Leon. “Alcohol-induced hypertension: Mechanism and prevention.” World Journal of Cardiology, May 26, 2014. Accessed August 25, 2022.

American Heart Association. “Limiting Alcohol to Manage High Blood Pressure.” October 31, 2016. Accessed August 25, 2022.

Loyke, Hubert F. “Five Phases of Blood Pressure in Alcoholics.” The Journal of Clinical Hypertension, June 10, 2013. Accessed August 25, 2022.

Aguilera, María Teresa; de la Sierra, Alejandro; et al. “Effect of Alcohol Abstinence on Blood Pressure.” Hypertension, February 1, 1999. Accessed August 25, 2022.

Ceccanti, M., Sasso, G.F., et al. “Hypertension In Early Alcohol Withdrawal[…]n Chronic Alcoholics.” Alcohol and Alcoholism, October 18, 2005. Accessed August 25, 2022.

American Heart Association News. “Drinking red wine for heart health? Read[…]his before you toast.” May 24, 2019. Accessed August 25, 2022.

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