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Just one alcoholic drink a day can increase blood pressure

One drink a day has been linked to increased blood pressure.

One drink a day has been linked to increased blood pressure. Photo: Getty

Even a single alcoholic drink a day can increase blood pressure, according to an analysis of multiple research studies released this week.

Using seven international studies, researchers have confirmed for the first time a continuous increase in blood pressure for both low- and high-alcohol intake participants.

Dr Marco Vinceti, the study’s lead author, said in a statement that researchers found no beneficial effects for adults who drank a low level of alcohol compared to those who did not drink.

“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,” he said.

“Although [it was] far less than the blood pressure increase seen in [a] heavy drinker.”

Researchers reviewed the health data for participants in seven studies across five years, comparing adults who drank alcohol regularly with non-drinkers.

Dr Vinceti said alcohol is “certainly not the sole driver of increased blood pressure”.

“However, our findings confirm it contributes in a meaningful way,” he said.

“Limiting alcohol intake is advised, and avoiding it is even better.”

Even people who drank one alcoholic beverage a day showed a link to higher blood pressure.

The study

Using data from studies conducted in the United States, Japan and Korea from 1997 to 2021, researchers based their conclusions on the results from 19,548 adults, ranging from 20 years of age to people in their early 70s.

Researchers used the usual alcoholic intake recorded at the beginning of each study to establish the average number of grams of alcohol consumed daily.

Using a new statistical technique, they combined results from the studies and plotted a curve showing the correlation between alcohol intake and blood pressure increase over time.

Dr Paul K Whelton, the study’s co-author, said 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,” he said.

By basing their analysis on grams of alcohol consumed and not number of drinks, researchers avoided bias arising from the different classifications of standard drinks between countries.

Recommendations

In Australia, the Department of Health recommends drinking no more than 10 standard drinks a week and no more than four standard drinks on any one day, but it also says no amount of alcohol is completely safe.

One in four Australians fail to meet drinking guidelines. Photo: AAP

One in four Australians aged 18 and over exceeded that recommendation in 2020-21 and men (33.6 per cent) are more likely to exceed the guideline than women (17.3 per cent).

People born in Australia (30 per cent) were almost twice as likely to exceed it as people born oversees (17.3 per cent).

Alcohol accounted for nearly three in five drug-related hospitalisations in 2020-21, representing 86,400 hospitalisations.

According to the Heart Foundation Australia, one in three Australian adults or 6.8 million people suffer from high blood pressure.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is associated with an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, kidney problems and a host of health issues.

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