The Contribution of a Moderate Intake of Alcohol to the Presence of Hypertension

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The relationship between blood pressure and alcohol intake was examined in 2434 male and 1608 female London civil servants. These subjects had been selected from 24 000 office workers on the basis of responses to a health questionnaire. The men had an average blood pressure of 134/80 mmHg and consumed a mean of 62 g alcohol/week as beer, 28 g/week as wine or fortified wine and 18 g/week as spirits (a total of 11.8 drinks/week). The women had an average blood pressure of 133/79 mmHg and consumed 7 g alcohol/week as beer, 25 g/week as wine and 11 g/week as spirits (a total of 4.4 drinks/week). Twenty-five per cent of men and 24% of women had a casual diastolic pressure equal to or greater than 90 mmHg and were considered to have diastolic hypertension on the one occasion.There was no increase in either systolic or diastolic pressure in men until total alcohol intake exceeded 50 drinks/week. However, 1 % of all men had hypertension associated with drinking alcohol and in those with hypertension, alcohol may have been the cause in between 4 and 9%. Defining 'hypertension' as a diastolic blood pressure of 90 mmHg or above on one occasion, 12-14% of people drinking more than 50 drinks of alcohol per week had hypertension associated with this intake of alcohol, and similarly, of those with both 'hypertension' and this level of intake, 36% could attribute their high blood pressure to their alcohol consumption. More men consumed beer than spirits or wine and the relationship between a high alcohol intake and an increase in blood pressure could only be confirmed for beer consumption. However, 43% of men consumed wine as well as other drinks. When the effect of the type of drink was examined there was a tendency for a high intake of wine to be associated with a lower blood pressure. The result of this inverse association was to strengthen the positive association with beer consumption so that a beer intake of more than 2.5 pints a day (30 units/week) was associated with an increase in systolic blood pressure. A positive relationship between alcohol consumption and an elevated blood pressure was not observed in those drinking either less than 30 units of beer/week or those drinking less than 50 mixed drinks/week, either before or after adjusting for obesity and age.Women drank less than men and did not have a positive relationship between alcohol intake and blood pressure. However, systolic blood pressure was inversely associated with a spirit intake of 1-9 drinks/week (but not more than 10 drinks/week).

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