Just one alcoholic drink a day could raise a person’s blood pressure, according to a new study.
Researchers said people should avoid alcohol altogether after finding that routinely drinking, even in small quantities, can increase a person’s blood pressure.
While the largest increases were seen among heavy drinkers, the international team of academics were “surprised” to find that drinking at low levels also had an effect.
High blood pressure puts extra strain on blood vessels, the heart and other organs, like kidneys, and persistent high blood pressure can lead to serious health problems including heart attacks and strokes.
The new study, published in the Hypertension – an American Heart Association journal, saw researchers examine data from seven international studies on drinking and high blood pressure, involving more than 19,000 people.
Usual alcoholic drink intake was recorded at the start of each study and the analysis was based on grams of alcohol consumed and not just on the number of drinks a person had.
Academics found a link between increases in systolic blood pressure – which notes the force at which the heart pumps blood around the body – and the number of daily alcoholic drinks.
Even people who drank one alcoholic beverage each day showed a link to higher blood pressure when compared to non-drinkers.
For the average adult, high blood pressure is considered to be from 140/90 millimetres of mercury (mm Hg), according to nhs.uk.
The study found:
• Systolic blood pressure – the top number – rose 1.25mm Hg in people who consumed an average of 12g of alcohol each day
• People who consumed 48g of alcohol per day saw an average increase of 4.9mm Hg
• Men consuming 48g of alcohol per day saw their diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure rise by an average of 3.1mm Hg
‘No beneficial effects’ in adults who drank low level of alcohol
They also found an increase in diastolic blood pressure – the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels between heartbeats when blood is pumped around the heart – in men but not in women.
Senior study author Professor Marco Vinceti from the medical school of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia University in Italy said: “We found no beneficial effects in adults who drank a low level of alcohol compared to those who did not drink alcohol.
“We were somewhat surprised to see that consuming an already-low level of alcohol was also linked to higher blood pressure changes over time compared to no consumption – although far less than the blood pressure increase seen in heavy drinkers.
“Limiting alcohol intake is advised, and avoiding it is even better.”
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Researchers added that alcohol is not the only factor that can affect blood pressure.
The study involved more than 19,548 people from the US, Korea and Japan who were tracked for at least five years.
While medications that can help with high blood pressure exist, a number of lifestyle changes can be made including regular exercise and cutting back on caffeine.
Regina Giblin, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said if you do drink alcohol it is “important to always keep within the guidelines of up to 14 units of alcohol each week.”