Just one alcoholic drink a day could raise a person’s blood pressure, a new study suggests.
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.
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.
The studies involved more than 19,548 people from the US, Korea and Japan who were tracked for at least five years.
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.
The 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.
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.
Persistent high blood pressure can lead to a number of serious health problems including heart attacks, strokes and vascular dementia.
Senior study author Professor Marco Vinceti from the medical school of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia University and an adjunct professor at Boston University’s school of public health 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.
“Alcohol is certainly not the sole driver of increases in blood pressure; however, our findings confirm it contributes in a meaningful way.
“Limiting alcohol intake is advised, and avoiding it is even better.”
Study co-author Paul Whelton from Tulane University’s school of public health and tropical medicine and president of the World Hypertension League, added: “We found participants with higher starting blood pressure readings, had a stronger link between alcohol intake and blood pressure changes over time.
“This suggests that people with a trend towards increased – although still not ‘high’ – blood pressure may benefit the most from low to no alcohol consumption.”
For the average adult high blood pressure is considered to be from 140/90mmHg, according to Britain’s National Health Service website.
The study found that systolic blood pressure – the top number- rose 1.25 millimetres of mercury (mm Hg) in people who consumed an average of 12 grams of alcohol each day.
People who consumed 48 grams of alcohol per day saw an average increase of 4.9 mm Hg.
Men consuming 48 grams of alcohol per day saw their diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure rise by an average of 3.1 mm Hg, the authors found.
(Australian Associated Press)