MaximFesenko/iStock, Getty Images
(MaximFesenko/iStock, Getty Images)

People with diabetes who have eight or more alcoholic drinks a week could increase their odds of high blood pressure by at least 62%, according to a new study.

Researchers used data from a one-time questionnaire to examine the relationship between alcohol consumption and blood pressure in more than 10,000 adults with Type 2 diabetes. The participants were part of a larger, long-term trial conducted in the U.S. and Canada to investigate treatments to reduce heart disease among adults with diabetes.

“Previous studies have suggested that heavy alcohol consumption was associated with high blood pressure. However, the association of moderate alcohol consumption with high blood pressure was unclear,” senior study author, Dr. Matthew J. Singleton, said in a news release. He is chief electrophysiology fellow at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

In the study, published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers found that having eight to 14 alcoholic drinks a week was associated with an increase in three different categories of high blood pressure, also called hypertension. It increased the odds of elevated blood pressure by 79%; stage 1 high blood pressure by 66%; and stage 2 by 62%.

The American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association guidelines say normal blood pressure is below 120/80. It is elevated when the systolic, or top, number is 120-129. It reaches stage 1 high blood pressure when the systolic is 130-139 or the diastolic, or bottom, number is 80-89. When either number is above that, a person has reached stage 2.

Researchers found light drinking – one to seven drinks a week – was not associated with an increase in blood pressure. But the more alcohol consumed, the higher the risk and severity of high blood pressure. Heavy drinking – 15 or more a week – could increase the odds of elevated blood pressure by 91%; stage 1 by 149% (a 2.49-fold increase); and stage 2 by 204% (a threefold increase).

One drink was equivalent to a 12-ounce beer, 5-ounce glass of wine or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.

“Both moderate and heavy alcohol consumption appear to be independently associated with higher odds of high blood pressure among those with Type 2 diabetes,” Singleton said. “Lifestyle modification, including tempering alcohol consumption, may be considered in patients with Type 2 diabetes, particularly if they are having trouble controlling their blood pressure.”

People with diabetes already are at increased risk for high blood pressure. For the general population, the AHA recommends alcoholic beverages be consumed in moderation, if at all, and drinkers should understand the potential effects on their health.

The study participants had Type 2 diabetes for an average of 10 years before enrolling in the study, and they were at increased risk for cardiovascular events because they had pre-existing or evidence of potential heart disease or at least two risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking or obesity.

If you have questions or comments about this story, please email editor@heart.org.

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