By John Salak –
There is yet another reason to limit alcohol consumption. Even adults who don’t suffer from hypertension may see their blood pressure rise more steeply as their daily consumption of alcohol increases over time.
This sobering news comes from an analysis of seven international research studies that were reported by the American Heart Association (AHA).
The statistical analysis confirmed for the first time that blood pressure measures increased over time for those with both low and high alcohol intake. The research added that even low levels of alcohol consumption led to detectable increases in blood pressure levels that may result in 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 Dr. Marco Vinceti, a professor at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia University in Italy. “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.”
The research also took a unique approach to analyzing alcohol consumption. “Our analysis was based on grams of alcohol consumed and not just on the number of drinks to avoid the bias that might arise from the different amount of alcohol contained in ‘standard drinks’ across countries and types of beverages,” explained study co-author Dr. Tommaso Filippini, also a professor at the Italian universities.
While there are some arguments to be made for the benefits of moderation alcohol consumption, heavy drinking over an extended period presents various health risks, including strokes, weakened immune systems, cancers, cognitive decline and mental disorders, among others.
The AHA report, however, underscores the accumulative negative impact of even low consumption levels on blood pressure over time. The researchers did this by reviewing the health data on participants across all seven studies for more than five years.
“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,” Vinceti said.
Although none of the participants had high blood pressure when they enrolled in the studies, their blood pressure measurements at the beginning did impact the alcohol findings.
“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 blood pressure may benefit the most from low to no alcohol consumption,” noted study co-author Dr. Paul K. Whelton of Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans.
The AHA’s report stressed that it is best to avoid alcohol altogether. Individuals who drink in moderation should consult with their doctors on the benefits and risks of consuming alcohol in moderation. The association also advised following its lifestyle and health metrics for optimal cardiovascular health called Life’s Essential 8. It includes eating healthy food, being physically active, avoiding smoking, getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy weight, and controlling cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure levels.