Drinking Alcohol and Blood Pressure

Even Small Amounts Can Increase Hypertension

Hypertension and Drinking
Alcohol consumption can affect blood pressure. Getty Images

Even modest alcohol consumption can cause blood pressure to increase, according to two recent studies conducted in Japan.

Dr. Noriyuki Nakanishi, from the department of social and environmental medicine at Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan, lead author of the first study, concluded that "Alcohol use represents an important modifiable risk factor for hypertension."

Previous research has demonstrated some health benefits for those who drink small amounts of alcohol, but the two new studies indicate that even very low alcohol consumption can be a health risk for many -- almost one in every four Americans.


Alcohol Effects Olders Persons More

The first study involved more than 5,000 Japanese male office workers, between the ages of 23 and 59, for more than four years. The subjects were grouped into four categories: those who drank fewer than 12 grams of alcohol a day; those who drank 12 grams to 22 grams per day; those who drank 23 grams to 45 grams per day; and those who drank more than 46 grams per day. One glass of wine would contain about 20 grams of alcohol.

Researchers observed that as the alcohol consumption rate went up, so did blood pressure. In the 12 grams to 22 grams per day group, systolic blood pressure went up 1.4 points in those between the ages of 25 and 35, but increased 5.4 points for men between the ages of 48 and 59, indicating that drinking affects older persons more.

Risk of Hypertension

In the second of the two studies, researchers from Kyushu University followed more than 1,100 people over age 40 for 10 years.

During that study, 101 men and 106 women developed hypertension with the risk of developing hypertension higher for both men and women who drank, even those who drank less than 23 grams daily.

More than 17,000 people die each year from high blood pressure complications in the U.S. and almost one in four Americans has high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hypertension can cause stroke, heart disease and kidney failure.

Both Japanese studies were published in the July 2002 issue of Alcohol: Clinical Experience and Research.

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