ONE pint a day increases blood pressure and damages your heart, a new study has found.
Scientists say that consuming between seven and 13 drink a week can double your risk of life-threatening hypertension – or high blood pressure.
Researchers analysed data from more than 17,000 US adults, who were quizzed on their drinking habits and had their blood pressure measured.
Volunteers were split into three groups – those who never drank alcohol, moderate drinkers (seven to 13 drinks a week) and heavy drinkers (14 or more drinks a week).
They defined first stage of hypertension, stage 1, as having systolic blood pressure between 130-139 or diastolic pressure between 80-89.
The next, stage 2 hypertension, was assessed as having systolic pressure above 140 or diastolic pressure above 90.
What is a normal blood pressure reading?
The ideal blood pressure should be below 120 and over 80 (120/80) and most UK adults have blood pressure in the range 120 over 80 (120/80) to 140 over 90 (140/90).
The higher number is the systolic pressure, which is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body, and the lower number is the diastolic pressure, the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels.
You can request a blood pressure reading at your local GP – it only takes a minute or so.
Blood pressure is measured with an instrument called a sphygmomanometer, where a a cuff is placed around your arm and inflated with a pump until the circulation is cut off.
Then, a small valve slowly deflates the cuff, and the doctor measures blood pressure.
Researchers found that compare with those who never drank, moderate drinkers were 53 per cent more likely to have stage 1 hypertension and twice as likely to have stage 2.
Heavy drinkers were 69 per cent more likely to have stage 1 hypertension and 2.4 times as likely to have stage 2 hypertension.
Overall, the average blood pressure was about 109/67 mm Hg among never-drinkers, 128/79 mm Hg among moderate drinkers and 153/82 mm Hg among heavy drinkers.
Dr Amer Aladin, a cardiology fellow at Wake Forest Baptist Health in North Carolina and the study’s lead author, said: “It’s the first study showing that both heavy and moderate alcohol consumption can increase hypertension.”
Researchers said that alcohol’s impact on blood pressure could stem from a variety of factors because it increases appetite as it’s very energy-dense, so drinking often leads to greater caloric intake overall.
Alcohol’s activities in the brain and liver could also contribute to spikes in blood pressure, they said.
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Dr Aladin said the study’s large sample size likely helps explain why the findings appear to contrast with previous studies in this area.
“This study is not only large but diverse in terms of race and gender,” he said.
“If you are drinking a moderate or large amount of alcohol, ask your provider to check your blood pressure at each visit and help you cut down your drinking and eventually quit.”
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