How Alcohol Use Impacts Blood Pressure

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is one of the most common substance use disorders that millions of people experience every year. Many of us are familiar with some of the side effects that come with AUD and the emotional and physical impact alcoholism can have on people with alcohol addiction. However, one specific symptom of AUD that is not as widely known is high blood pressure. Here’s what you should know about how alcohol use affects drinkers’ blood pressure levels.

Highs and Lows

Although alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, meaning it suppresses the functioning of the central nervous system, it can increase some of the otherwise normal levels in our bodies; blood pressure is one of those. Excessive alcohol use can cause high blood pressure (or hypertension). This has to do with what occurs in the body when alcohol is ingested. Things like the release of the adrenaline hormone, the stress hormone cortisol, which retains water in the body, and even calcium levels which narrow blood vessels, are all contributing factors that can spike blood pressure levels. Chronic or binge drinking can lead to long-term blood pressure increases.

However, it’s not only risks associated with high blood pressure. Studies have shown that the effect of alcohol on blood pressure depends on two factors: timing and dosage. Medium to high doses of alcohol consumption within six to 12 hours will generally lower blood pressure. For 13 hours and more, a high dosage of alcohol increases blood pressure.

How Blood Pressure Leads to Greater Dangers

These studies were performed on healthy males and females, so the impact of alcohol on blood pressure will vary even more for those with underlying health issues, including people who are taking blood pressure medication, heart medication, or blood thinners. For example, when alcohol interacts with high blood pressure medications, it can cause dizziness, the risk of fainting, and even irregular heartbeat.

The key to these findings is to show just how much alcohol can directly impact heart health and blood pressure as well. When alcohol becomes an addiction, binge drinking, excessive alcohol use, and other factors can lead to abnormal changes in blood pressure. Most often, these come as a result of serious heart problems that have already begun to occur in someone addicted to alcohol. But the risk is not limited to blood pressure alone; instead, the effect of alcohol use on blood pressure can directly cause other health concerns that we understand to be much more concerning.


For example, high blood pressure from alcohol use can increase the risk of stroke. This risk is especially heightened for those in their 20s and 30s who are moderate-to-heavy drinkers. High blood pressure directly increases the risk of stroke because it increases the workload of the heart and begins damaging organs and arteries over time. When blood vessels are narrowed or clogged, it causes blood flow to be cut off from the brain, resulting in a stroke.

Heart Attack and Heart Failure

Major heart attacks are also a risk associated with high blood pressure from alcohol use. When high blood pressure is left untreated for a long period of time, it can lead to the weakening of the heart muscle, eventually leading to an overwhelmed heart and resulting in heart failure or a life-threatening heart attack.

Staying Ahead of Permanent Damage

At the surface level, the risk that alcohol poses on blood pressure might seem to be an unimportant issue. However, when blood pressure is understood as a contributing factor to things like stroke and heart failure risks, it helps to bring to light just how dangerous alcohol’s effect on blood pressure can be.

If you or someone you know is suffering from an addiction to alcohol or noticeable changes in blood pressure, it is imperative to get the professional help you need to avoid the life-threatening consequences of blood pressure changes from alcohol.


Delphi Health Group. (n.d.). Guide to Alcohol Detox: Severity, Dangers, and Timeline. Retrieved

Medical News Today. (2021 September 14). What to Know About Alcohol and Blood Pressure. Retrieved

Mayo Clinic. (2022 October 20). Alcohol: Does it Affect Blood Pressure? Retrieved

American Heart Association: Heart Attack and Stroke Symptoms. (2016 October 31). Limiting Alcohol to Manage High Blood Pressure. Retrieved

National Institute of Health. (2020 July 1). Effect of Alcohol on Blood Pressure. Retrieved

Good RX Health. (2022 July 28). Does Alcohol Raise Your Blood Pressure? What You Need to Know. Retrieved

Delphi Health Group. (n.d.). Alcohol Abuse and Addiction Treatment Guide. Retrieved

USA Today. (2022 November 3). Drinking alcohol may increase the risk of having a stroke in your 20s and 30s, study finds. Retrieved

American Stroke Association. (2020). High Blood Pressure and Stroke. Retrieved

Mayo Clinic. (2022 January 14). High Blood Pressure Dangers: Hypertension’s Effects on Your Body. Retrieved

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