The Effects of Low Alcohol Consumption on Blood Pressure

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Having just one beer or glass of wine a day can increase systolic blood pressure — the “top number” that shows how much pressure blood exerts against artery walls when the heart beats — even in people who don’t have hypertension, a new study suggests.

“Even low alcohol consumption is detrimental to human health,” says senior study author Marco Vinceti, MD, PhD, a professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia Medical School in Italy. Dr. Vinceti also serves as an adjunct professor at the Boston University School of Public Health.

The study found that even low levels of alcohol consumption negatively impacted systolic blood pressure in both men and women, according to results published in the journal Hypertension. For men, but not women, the study also found that light drinking was associated with increases in diastolic blood pressure, the “bottom number” that indicates how much pressure blood exerts on artery walls when the heart is at rest between beats.

What Is a Healthy Number for Blood Pressure?

For most adults, blood pressure is considered normal when the systolic reading is less than 120 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and the diastolic reading is below 80 mmHg, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). People are diagnosed with hypertension when they have systolic blood pressure of at least 130 mmHg or diastolic readings over 80 mmHg.

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