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Alcohol and Blood Pressure

When it comes to alcohol and blood pressure, too much alcohol is not a good thing. The American Heart Association recommends that men limit their alcohol intake to two drinks each day and women limit their intake to one drink each day. It does not take much alcohol to interfere with your blood pressure, so it is critical that you know the facts, especially if you have high blood pressure already, or are at risk for it.

What Constitutes a "Drink"?

A lot of bars and restaurants actually serve cocktails in portions much larger than what the American Heart Association is considering to be a "drink". When you are having a beer, a single serving is just 12 ounces. When you are having a glass of wine, a single serving is just five ounces. When you are having an 80-proof distilled spirit, a single serving is 1.5 ounces. An example of an 80-proof distilled spirit would be something like a rum and coke.

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How Does Alcohol Impact My Blood Pressure?

If someone is a heavy drinker and they take their alcohol intake back to a more moderate level, they can lower their top number (systolic blood pressure number) by an average of two to four millimeters of mercury. For example, if their top number was 140, they can bring it down to 136. In this same scenario, they can bring their bottom number (diastolic blood pressure number) down by an average of one to two millimeters of mercury.

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Why You Should be Concerned

In the United States, about one in three adults suffers from high blood pressure (hypertension), and as many as 25 percent of the adult population without high blood pressure is prehypertensive, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Stroke and heart attack are possible complications of high blood pressure, especially when it goes uncontrolled. Heart failure, vision problems and aneurysm are also possible.

A big problem with high blood pressure is that the majority of people with it have no idea that they have it. This is because it often causes no symptoms, even when it approaches dangerously high levels.

When symptoms do occur, they are often vague and not incredibly alarming, such as some dizziness and dull headaches. Some people also report more frequent nosebleeds. As you can see, these symptoms can occur with dozens of other issues, many of which warrant no medical attention. So, if you consume alcohol, definitely keep an eye on your blood pressure. In fact, regardless, keep an eye on your blood pressure. Getting it checked is painless and literally takes less than one minute. It could very well save your life.

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Reviewed by Dr. Jennifer Monti, MD, MPH

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