The Shocking Connection Between Alcohol and a Deadly Increase in Blood Pressure

It has happened to just about all of us. You go meet your friends or colleagues at the bar for a happy hour drink or two. And the next thing you know, you’re on drink four or five and have a solid buzz. But what you might not know is that, in addition to impairing your motor skills, those extra cocktails are hurting your heart. You also might not know the direct impact those $2 drinks have on your blood pressure.

Here are the deadly effects that “a few too many” can have.

First, let’s talk about blood pressure

A doctor checks a patient's blood pressure.

Frequently hitting the bars? Get your blood pressure regularly checked. | Mind_and_I/iStock/Getty Images Plus

It behooves you to understand the bare bones of a healthy blood pressure. Mayo Clinic breaks up blood pressure readings into four categories. As is commonly known, a reading of 120/80 is the target. As those numbers increase, you become more susceptible to hypertension, which puts you at a higher risk of having a stroke.

Alcohol’s impact

A group at a bar having drinks.

It may not seem like it at the moment, but that bottle of beer can cause serious health problems down the line. | Kzenon/iStock/Getty Images Plus

It doesn’t take much booze to put your blood pressure through the roof. Granted, having a few extra drinks every now and then will only temporarily raise your blood pressure. But regularly binge-drinking can result in long-term damage.

How many is too many?

It reportedly takes more than three drinks in one sitting to raise your blood pressure, Mayo Clinic explains. If you are someone that regularly frequents your local watering hole, your risk of hypertension could be much higher. Think about your heart the next time you want to have “just one more” drink.

Lasting damage

In addition to hypertension, excess alcohol consumption affects the heart in many ways. The calories in most drinks can lead to weight gain, which puts people in their 40s and 50s at a higher risk for heart failure. It can also make medications you are taking ineffective — which is extra bad if you are taking medication for your blood pressure to begin with.

What about the Mediterranean diet?

Red wine and olives are on a table along with cheese and bread.

A small glass of red wine with dinner never hurt anyone. | LightFieldStudios/iStock/ Getty Images Plus

There is a bit of confusion when it comes to heart health and red wine. This is especially true when discussing the Mediterranean Diet, which encourages its followers to have wine every day. Long story short: this suggestion should be taken with a grain of salt. You’re really not supposed to have more than five ounces of wine daily (if you are a woman) or no more than 10 ounces daily (if you are a man). That’s basically one small glass of vino. Anything more than that is only contributing to high blood pressure.


Safe alternatives

Surprisingly, cutting out alcohol cold turkey isn’t a very safe bet, because that too can make your blood pressure spike. If you need to cut back on your alcohol consumption, the American Heart Association suggests slowly cutting back on the hard stuff. Then stick to no more than one or two drinks a day. They classify one drink as “one 12 oz. beer, 4 oz. of wine, 1.5 oz. of 80-proof spirits or 1 oz. of 100-proof spirits.”

Other help for high blood pressure

Medication and blood pressure equipment.

Your doctor can guide you through all your needs. | Ocskaymark/iStock/Getty Images Plus

There are also other lifestyle changes you can make in addition to cutting back on alcohol that will save your blood pressure. Exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy diet full of heart-healthy foods is always a good bet. (Plus, that can help you lose weight.) Reducing your sodium intake at the same time is also a safe bet to get those blood pressure numbers down.

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