Alcohol and High Blood Pressure: Effects and Advice

Medically Reviewed By Meredith Goodwin, MD, FAAFP

Alcohol and high blood pressure may be related. This is because alcohol may affect blood vessel function and fluid levels, causing high blood pressure. This article explains how alcohol can affect blood pressure, as well as alcohol intake recommendations for people with high blood pressure. It also discusses treatment and some frequently asked questions about alcohol and high blood pressure.

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “female” and “male” when discussing people assigned female or male at birth to reflect language that appears in source materials.

Learn more about the difference between sex and gender here.

How does alcohol affect blood pressure?

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In some cases, moderate to high levels of alcohol may cause blood pressure to rise. High blood pressure is also known as hypertension.

According to a 2020 review of research Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source , drinking alcohol may initially have the immediate effect of lowering blood pressure. However, after the initial drop, it may then raise your blood pressure and heart rate.

It’s important to note that some studies examined only looked at small numbers of females compared to males. As a result, further research is necessary to confirm the effects on all people.

However, other research also suggests that alcohol increases blood pressure.

In a 2019 study of 17,059 males and females, researchers observed that people who drank a moderate amount of alcohol compared to none were 53% more likely to have stage 1 hypertension and two times more likely to have stage 2 hypertension.

Moderate alcohol intake was defined as between 7 and 12 drinks weekly.

Doctors use the following stages Trusted Source American Heart Association Highly respected national organization Go to source to reference how severe high blood pressure is:

  • Stage 1 hypertension: This is a systolic blood pressure reading between 130–139 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or diastolic pressure between 80–89 mm Hg.
  • Stage 2 hypertension: This refers to a systolic pressure above 140 mm Hg or a diastolic pressure above 90 mm Hg.

Learn more about blood pressure monitoring.

Researchers also found that people who drank heavily were 69% more likely to have stage 1 hypertension than people who do not drink and 2.4 times more likely to have stage 2 hypertension. Heavy drinking was defined as having 14 or more drinks per week.

Excessive intake of alcohol on one occasion, or “binge drinking,” increase blood pressure. “Binge drinking” includes having 5 or more alcoholic drinks for males and 4 or more for females.

However, even people who do not drink regularly have a risk of experiencing negative effects from alcohol.

Many factors can influence high blood pressure

In addition to alcohol use, many other factors can cause high blood pressure. Everyone may experience health effects differently.

For example, some people who intake a large amount of alcohol may not show signs of high blood pressure. On the other hand, even people who do not drink can develop high blood pressure for other reasons.

Read more about the causes and risk factors of high blood pressure.

Why does alcohol cause high blood pressure?

According to a 2020 literature review, clinicians are not completely sure why alcohol raises blood pressure.

However, a 2017 review of research Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source suggests the following factors may come into play in the relationship between alcohol and high blood pressure:

  • Alcohol may increase renin activity: Renin is a hormone that causes the blood vessels to tighten and decreases urine output. This can increase the body’s fluid levels and make the blood vessels smaller.
  • Alcohol may increase cortisol levels: Researchers suggest that cortisol may contribute to hypertension due to the consumption of alcohol. Cortisol is a hormone that coordinates the body’s stress response.
  • Alcohol may decrease receptor sensitivity: Baroreceptors help coordinate when to stretch the blood vessels. Alcohol may interfere with the baroreceptors’ ability to stretch the blood vessels, causing them to remain narrow and increase blood pressure.

Excessive alcohol use may also contribute to the development of high blood pressure in other ways. For instance, high alcohol use can cause:

These effects may contribute Trusted Source American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Peer reviewed journal Go to source to high blood pressure.

How do you treat alcohol-induced high blood pressure?

One of the most appropriate ways to reduce alcohol-induced high blood pressure is to reduce your alcohol intake as much as possible.

You and your doctor can make an individualized treatment plan to lower your blood pressure and address your alcohol use.

If you have an alcohol use disorder or find it difficult to reduce your alcohol intake, your doctor can also recommend treatment approaches such as:

  • counseling
  • therapy
  • medication
  • rehabilitation

If you have developed any complications of high blood pressure or alcohol intake, your doctor can also help you manage them as well. 

There is no singular recommended level of alcohol for people who have high blood pressure aside from reducing your intake as much as possible.

This is because what is safe or healthy can vary depending on personal factors, such as whether you have any underlying conditions. While for some people, a low alcohol intake may be fine, for others, any amount of alcohol may present Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Governmental authority Go to source health risks.

The United States Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services recommend Trusted Source Dietary Guidelines for Americans (USDA) Governmental authority Go to source that most healthy adults stick to the following limits to minimize health risks:

  • 2 alcoholic drinks or less per day for adult males
  • 1 alcohol drink or less per day for adult females

Contact your doctor for individualized advice about health risks and alcohol.

Read more about treatments to lower blood pressure.

Other frequently asked questions

Meredith Goodwin, MD, FAAFP, has reviewed the following frequently asked questions.

Can I still drink alcohol with high blood pressure?

Some people may be able to continue to drink alcohol in low amounts if they have high blood pressure. However, this can vary by person. Your doctor can provide personalized advice.

What alcohol is best for high blood pressure?

No specific alcohol is best for someone with high blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, doctors recommend decreasing your total alcohol intake or not drinking alcohol at all.

How long after drinking does blood pressure go down?

Researchers in the 2020 research review Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source suggest that high doses of alcohol may increase blood pressure for up to 24 hours after drinking.

Is high blood pressure due to alcohol use reversible?

High blood pressure due to alcohol use can be reversible by reducing your intake and following your treatment plan. However, long-term or severe hypertension can have other complications that may last for longer.


A moderate to high intake of alcohol may cause high blood pressure. This may be due to alcohol affecting the chemicals in the body that control blood vessel constriction and fluid levels.

You can reduce hypertension by reducing your alcohol intake and following the treatment plan that your doctor recommends.

There’s not currently a recommended amount of alcohol for people with hypertension since this can vary from person to person. Instead, contact your doctor for individualized advice.

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Medical Reviewer: Meredith Goodwin, MD, FAAFP
Last Review Date: 2022 Dec 23
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