- Excessive alcohol increases blood pressure, and moderate alcohol probably does too
- If you don’t drink alcohol, don’t start. If you do, less is better.
- Although cutting down on drinking can be hard, many tools are available
How does drinking alcohol raise my blood pressure?
Although the exact mechanisms aren’t yet known, studies have shown that heavy drinking increases blood pressure. One study shows that even moderate drinking increases your chances of having high blood pressure by 50%. But… what is moderate drinking? Moderate drinking is defined as an average of one drink per day for women and one or two for men. Keep in mind that a drink might be less than you think: 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits or liquor.
Can drinking alcohol harm my health in other ways?
Drinking alcohol of any kind also raises your risk of six types of cancer: mouth/throat, larynx, esophagus, colon/rectum, liver, and breast. The more you drink, the higher your cancer risk. When used to excess, alcohol can cause problems with depression, anxiety, sleep, and relationships with friends, family and employers.
But surely drinking alcohol isn’t all bad?
Drinking alcohol can help decrease social anxiety, encourage group bonding, and promote creative thinking. Some studies show that red wine can lower your risk of dying from heart disease. This might be because the antioxidants in red wine increase your HDL (good cholesterol) and protect the lining in your blood vessels. The good news is that you can get the same “good” effects from a diet full of fruits and veggies and regular exercise.
So, what do we recommend?
We agree with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommends that if you don’t drink alcohol, it’s best for your health not to start. And if you do drink alcohol, less alcohol is better.
Interested in cutting down? Here are some ideas:
- Set a drink limit (e.g. a certain number of drinks per day or week) that works for you and stick to it.
- Have a few alcohol-free days per week. This may be a chance to break your routine and to think of alternative activities or drinks that are fun and healthy.
- Switch to a low-alcohol or no-alcohol alternative (lots of these in stores these days!).
- Limit how much alcohol you keep in the house.
- Drink water. Keep a glass of water around all the time, and reach for it when you’re thirsty.
- Commit to only drinking alcohol during dinner.
- Set a budget on how much you will spend on alcohol per week or month.
- If you’re wanting to limit how much you drink when going out, the best excuse is to be the designated driver!
- Tell your family and friends you want to get healthier and ask for their support. Reframe drinking as you would any other health behavior you want to change, such as eating better or getting more exercise, and share it with those closest to you.
- Make a plan for when you crave alcohol. When you do have a craving, use strategies such as distraction, talking back to the craving, or “riding the waves.” Your Marley care team can help you with all of these.
- Connect with others. Many people drink when they feel lonely. Make an effort to connect with others and socialize without alcohol.
- Consider getting more support. This could include talking to your doctor about medications that reduce your craving for alcohol, going to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, or finding other resources.
What you need to know
Moderate to heavy drinking increases your blood pressure and cancer risk, whereas keeping alcohol use to zero or low levels will improve your health and well-being. If you feel ready to reduce your alcohol intake, congratulations! Our team at Marley is ready and excited to help you find the right tools to help you succeed.
- Miller, P. M., Anton, R. F., Egan, B. M., Basile, J., & Nguyen, S. A. (2005, June). Excessive alcohol consumption and hypertension: Clinical implications of current research. Journal of clinical hypertension (Greenwich, Conn.). Retrieved August 17, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8109365/
- Aladin AI, Chevli PA, Ahmad MI, Rasool SH, Herrington DM. Alcohol Consumption and Systemic Hypertension (from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey). Am J Cardiol. 2021;160:60-66. doi:10.1016/j.amjcard.2021.08.033
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, January 31). Alcohol and cancer. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved August 17, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/alcohol/index.htm
- Askey D. In Vino Veritas: Edward Slingerland On The Hidden Truths About Our Relationship With Alcohol. The Sun Magazine.
- Castaldo L, Narváez A, Izzo L, et al. Red wine consumption and Cardiovascular Health. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6804046/. Published October 8, 2019. Accessed August 17, 2022.July 2022. Accessed August 17, 2022.
- Facts about moderate drinking. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/moderate-drinking.htm. Published April 19, 2022. Accessed August 17, 2022.
- Tips to reduce drinking. Alcohol Think Again. https://alcoholthinkagain.com.au/alcohol-your-health/tips-to-reduce-drinking/. Accessed August 17, 2022.