Certain types of alcohol, high in flavonoids, exert a benefit on your heart. They can protect this vital muscle from the conditions that trigger disease. One of them is high blood pressure. But the news isn’t all good around this link.
Can alcohol help reduce hypertension? Does it help trigger it? A look at the medical literature suggests both.
What Study Says about Alcohol Consumption
One study found that, compared to the non-drinkers, those who drank every day or apart from food were at a greater risk of high blood pressure. Having one drink or more a day — typically hard liquor — led to systolic (the upper number) and diastolic (the lower number) blood pressure levels rising 2.7 and 1.4 mm Hg, respectively.
For those who had more than two drinks a day, blood pressure levels rose by 5.0 mm Hg. The risk of having high blood pressure increased only in those who claimed that they drank without food.
Drinking alcohol outside of food is associated with a higher risk of death from all causes, including heart attacks. Alcohol-related high blood pressure seems unrelated to the type of alcohol ingested, be it beer, wine or hard liquor.
Alcohol Consumption and Your Health
Results from two of the largest U.S. population studies show that the risk of hypertension differs between men and women. In women, light-to-moderate alcohol ingestion lowered the hypertension risk; whereas heavy drinking (four or more drinks a day) significantly increased the risk of hypertension.
However, in men, not only were there no health benefits with light-to-moderate alcohol ingestion, but also a definite increased risk of hypertension was observed with just five drinks per week.
In the large Physicians Health Study (14,125 men), those who reported monthly, weekly, or daily ingestion of alcohol experienced reduced total and cardiovascular death regardless of whether they had hypertension or not, as compared to those who rarely or never drank. One drink every month reduced the overall heart risk by 18%.
Based on a meta-analysis of 15 randomized placebo-controlled studies with 2,234 subjects, reduction in alcohol intake led to lowering of both systolic and diastolic blood pressure by-3.31 and -2.04 mmHg, respectively. This degree of a blood-pressure-lowering effect is comparable to sodium restriction.
It is known that a 2.0-mmHg reduction of the diastolic blood pressure leads to a 17% decrease in the prevalence of hypertension, a six-percent drop in the risk of coronary heart disease, and a 15% reduction in the risk of stroke.
Only ever drink in moderation, always drink with food, and, if you have questions, speak to your doctor about the risks and benefits of alcohol.