How Does Alcohol Affect Blood Pressure?

Written by Theresa Valenzky

& Medically Reviewed by Benjamin Caleb Williams, RN

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Last Updated - 09/12/2023

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Updated 09/12/2023

Drinking more than three drinks in a single sitting will temporarily cause your blood pressure to rise, but extended binge drinking or regular alcohol consumption can cause a permanent increase in blood pressure.

Below we highlight the effects alcohol can have on your blood pressure, as well as the negative consequences that having high blood pressure can have on your health.

How Alcohol Affects Blood Pressure

Drinking heavy amounts of alcohol over time will cause your blood pressure to rise.

When you consume alcohol above a level that your body can regularly process, it can cause your blood pressure to increase. For the duration of your drinking, and for some time after your blood pressure will remain elevated. That’s why sustained heavy drinking can be so dangerous for your blood pressure.

In a recent study by The Recovery Village, 31% of the 2,000 respondents reported high blood pressure as a result of their alcohol use.

What is High Blood Pressure?

In order for your blood to properly circulate throughout your body, pressure is required. A heart that’s healthy and functioning normally will pump blood throughout your body at relatively low blood pressure.

High blood pressure means that your heart must pump harder in order to pump the blood throughout your body. This also strains your arteries, as they have to work to carry the blood that’s now flowing through your body at a greater pressure. Unfortunately, having high blood pressure usually doesn’t have very many symptoms, so it can be hard to diagnose until it’s too late.

There may be special blood pressure considerations for those living in high altitudes, such as Colorado, where we’re located. Although there is no clear evidence of an increased risk of blood pressure complications at high altitudes, there is marked interindividual variability in blood pressure responses at altitudes. So, as a result, people with uncontrolled blood pressure or very labile hypertension should monitor their blood pressure upon ascent to high altitude.

According to a study by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 26% of adult Coloradans had high blood pressure in 2013, a significant rise from 21% in 2003.

The Dire Consequences of High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure can cause a host of health issues. For starters, it can cause kidney damage and even lead to retinal damage. High blood pressure can also lead to these two potential consequences:

1. Stroke

High blood pressure puts a strain on arteries and blood vessels throughout your entire body, including those in your brain. The continued stress could either cause the vessels to clog, or weaken. If this happens there’s a blockage of blood to the brain, or there’s bleeding into the brain, which results in a stroke.

2. Heart Attack

Having high blood pressure will greatly increase your risk of heart attack. Since high blood pressure makes your heart work harder, and increases the overall strain on your heart, you increase your risk of chest pains, breathlessness, and even heart attack.

Understanding the Physical Effects of Alcohol & Withdrawal

Seeking Treatment for Alcohol Abuse

In order to safely lower your blood pressure to a healthy range it’s important to decrease the total amount and frequency at which you consume alcohol.  If you’re a heavy drinker consider cutting back to more moderate levels of drinking over a sustained period of time. Immediately stopping alcohol consumption can be incredibly dangerous (See More: Alcohol Withdrawal & Detox) if you’re a heavy drinker.

If you’re trying to treat alcoholism in yourself or a loved one it’s always a good idea to seek out the support of an alcohol treatment center with experienced medical staff. This will help to ease the transition and make your path to sobriety much more tolerable. If you or a loved one has made the decision to stop drinking, then reach out to our team today.

Sources

Puddey, Ian B, and Lawrence J Beilin. “Alcohol is bad for blood pressure.” Clinical and experimental pharmacology & physiology, 2006. Accessed July 22, 2021.

Husain, Kazim et al. “Alcohol-induced hypertension: Mechanism and prevention.” World journal of cardiology, 2014. Accessed July 22, 2021.

CDC. “High Blood Pressure Symptoms and Causes.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, May 18, 2021. Accessed July 22, 2021.

Luks, Andrew M. “Should travelers with hypertension adjus[…]g to high altitude?.” High altitude medicine & biology, 2009. Accessed August 3, 2021.

Colorado.gov. “Cardiovascular Disease Burden and Disparities in Colorado.” Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, November 2014. Accessed August 3, 2021.

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