NYC Health News: Alcohol and blood pressure

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Many people view the summertime as a time to kick back, relax a little bit, and enjoy the warm weather. That mindset also often sets the stage for overconsumption of alcohol.

An analysis of seven international research studies published today in Hypertension, an American Heart Association journal, found a clear association between increases in systolic (top-number) blood pressure and the number of alcoholic beverages consumed daily. The analysis of data from studies involving more than 19,000 adults in the United States, Korea and Japan indicates even people who drank one alcoholic beverage per day showed a link to higher blood pressure when compared to non-drinkers. not already.

This analysis confirms for the first time there was a continuous increase in blood pressure measures in both participants with low and high alcohol intake. Even low levels of alcohol consumption were associated with detectable increases in blood pressure levels that may lead to a higher risk of cardiovascular events.

“We found no beneficial effects in adults who drank a low level of alcohol compared to those who did not drink alcohol,” said senior study author Marco Vinceti, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of epidemiology and public health in the Medical School of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia University in Italy and an adjunct professor in the department of epidemiology at Boston University’s School of Public Health. “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.”

I was also able to speak with New York City based cardiologist, Dr. Rachel Maria Brown Talaska, from Lenox Hill Hospital, Northwell Health. She answered a few questions for our readers.

Is it safe to have just one drink every day?

“No current American cardiology society guideline recommends alcohol intake.  A number of studies have demonstrated beneficial effects of alcohol to be limited to one or two drinks per day, if no contraindications to alcohol consumption are present, whether it be medical or social.  Higher consumption associated with a myriad of health issues. Moderate intake of alcohol is 1 drink per day for women and 1-2 drinks per day for men (the NIH has a wonderful photographic on what is a standard drink definition). Anything more than this is deemed excessive.  I do not recommend any level of alcohol intake to my cardiac patients.”


Is drinking alcohol part of a healthy lifestyle?

The American Heart Association advises people to limit alcohol intake and to not start drinking alcohol if you don’t. If you do drink, talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of consuming alcohol in moderation. Some people should not drink at all, like women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, people under age 21 and people with certain health conditions.

Moderate alcohol consumption means an average of one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. Different types of beer, wine and liquor have different amounts of alcohol. But in general, a drink is one 12-ounce regular beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits, such as bourbon, vodka or gin.

How does alcohol affect your heart health?

“Studies have shown excess alcohol intake is associated with high blood pressure, heart failure, stroke, and arrhythmias.  In addition, if one is taking medication for a cardiovascular condition, consumption of alcohol while on such medications increases risk of an adverse medication interaction.”

Why is pregnancy a particularly important time to avoid alcohol?

“Pregnant women should not consume alcohol and there is no safe or recommended alcohol consumption during pregnancy.  Studies suggest alcohol to be the most damaging during the first trimester, but there is evidence to support that consumption of alcohol at any period during pregnancy can have negative impacts on the baby’s health and wellbeing.  Studies have shown alcohol consumption during pregnancy to negatively affect fetal brain development, physical growth, and issues with speech and language development, behavior and learning after birth.

What is binge drinking?

Binge drinking — having five or more drinks in two hours for men or four or more drinks for women — may put you at higher risk for atrial fibrillation, an irregular or quivering heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, stroke and heart failure.

Heavy drinking may also prematurely age arteries over time, particularly in men, when compared to moderate drinkers.

Plus, all the extra calories from drinking alcohol can lead to obesity and a higher risk of developing diabetes. Learn more about alcohol and how it affects the body

Alcohol helps me relax. How else can I deal with stress?

Drinking alcohol may seem like a convenient way to cope with stress, but there are many other healthier strategies. Staying physically active, eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep and maintaining a positive attitude are some good ways to manage stress.

I’ve read that red wine is heart healthy — can I drink as much as I’d like?

Unfortunately, red wine as a miracle drink for heart heath is a myth. The linkage reported in many of these studies may be due to other lifestyle factors rather than alcohol. Like any other dietary or lifestyle choice, it’s a matter of moderation.

How do you counsel a patient who is living with alcohol addiction?

“Most importantly, open the conversation about substance use disorder with sensitivity and respect.  It is important to remain judgement free, acknowledging the substance use disorder is a medical disease.  Once it is clear, based on screening questions, that a patient is living with alcohol addiction, it is helpful to give specific reasons why you are concerned for their health and wellbeing.  Discuss the key medical and social aspects of their life that are being negatively affected by excessive drinking.  Ensure the patient feels supported and, if ready, develop an action plan together that includes referral to addiction cessation support services.”

If you need help

If cutting back on alcohol is hard for you to do on your own, ask your health care professional about getting help.

For additional alcohol addiction information:


NYC Health Department: Office of Alcohol and Drug Use Services


NY State Office of Addiction Services and Support: