Alcohol consumption and hypertension
An increased prevalence of hypertension in groups with high alcohol consumption has been recognized for a number of years. More recently, several studies have suggested an independent association between alcohol consumption and blood pressure levels in samples from general populations. Of 30 cross-sectional population studies reviewed, the majority reported small but significant elevations in blood pressure in those consuming three drinks or more per day in comparison with nondrinkers. In 25% of studies, elevations in blood pressure were also reported at lower levels of consumption; in about 40%, the blood pressure of nondrinkers was greater than that of those consuming one to two drinks per day. In two studies, one from the United States and one from Australia, the maximum contribution to the prevalence of hypertension of alcohol consumption greater than two drinks per day was estimated to be 5 to 7%; the contribution in men (11%) was greater than that in women because of their greater alcohol consumption. A prospective association of alcohol consumption with change in blood pressure was observed in five studies. In a small number of experimental studies, short-term falls in blood pressure accompanied alcohol restriction in both normotensive and hypertensive subjects. Uncontrolled observations in heavy drinking populations suggest that the effect on blood pressure of alcohol withdrawal may be lasting. However, firm conclusions about the long-term effects of alcohol restriction, particularly in moderate consumers who represent a large proportion in many populations, must await long-term controlled trials.