How Much Alcohol Can You Drink if You Have High Blood Pressure?

There are a lot of myths surrounding high blood pressure. For most people, cutting alcohol completely out of your life to reduce or prevent hypertension isn’t actually necessary. But there’s a reason your doctor will ask about your drinking habits when talking with you about your blood pressure.

You’ve likely heard that alcohol is bad for your liver. But it can also damage your heart and affect many other parts of your body.

While it’s true that you can still technically drink alcohol if you have high blood pressure — unless your doctor tells you not to (please listen to your doctor) — it’s still important to set limits. Here’s how much experts say is usually safe to drink with hypertension.

Does alcohol cause high blood pressure?

Wine

Wine | Berezko/Getty Images

There are several reasons alcohol can contribute to heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure risk. One of those reasons is a condition called cardiomyopathy — the stretching and weakening of your heart that can lead to heart failure.

Drinking too much alcohol raises blood pressure for a number of reasons related to hormone levels, inflammation, and tissue damage resulting from heavy drinking.

In many cases, a combination of lifestyle factors — such as drinking too much, following an unhealthy diet, and avoiding regular physical activity — contribute to hypertension. However, studies have shown that reducing alcohol intake also reduces high blood pressure.

If you’ve already been diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor will likely recommend restricting the amount you drink in an average week. But there are multiple areas of your body at play here, not just your heart.

Why is alcohol bad for your body?

Alcohol tends to be high in calories. Our first instinct is to focus on food calories when tracking how much we consume in an average day. But you could be taking in hundreds of extra calories in just a few drinks without even thinking about it.

There’s also the chance that drinking too much in one sitting can deter you from consuming “nutritious” calories from food — or prompt you to eat or snack on other high-calorie foods along with your drink (or later during a hangover).

Both of these factors can lead to weight gain, which increases your risk of developing high blood pressure. The more you weigh, the harder your heart has to work to pump blood through your body.

Too much alcohol can also damage your liver, interfere with normal brain activity, and increase your risk of more than one type of cancer.

How much alcohol can you drink if you have high blood pressure?

Man drinking beer

Man drinking beer | Wavebreakmedia/iStock/Getty Images

If drinking too much alcohol raises blood pressure and harms your body in other ways over time, than how much is too much? Is there such a thing as a “healthy” amount of alcohol?

The American Heart Association recommends limiting your alcohol consumption to no more than two drinks per day (men) or one drink per day (women). This matches the recommendations given by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 for preserving overall health.

Anything more than that could put you at risk for heavy alcohol use or an alcohol use disorder, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

One 12-ounce serving of beer, a four-ounce glass of wine, or one ounce of hard liquor.