Alcohol and high blood pressure: don't binge!

Bingeing causes more strokes.

The topic of alcohol and high blood pressure has been in the August news as the result of research that suggests that binge drinking is particularly dangerous for hypertensive men.

The study, published in Stroke Journal (American Heart Association) was conducted by Dr. Heechoul Ohrr, and colleagues, at Yonsei University College of Medicine in Seoul. For nearly 21 years they followed the progress of over 6,000 people from a farming community in South Korea.

The study showed a clear association of higher stroke risk with higher blood pressure (over 168/100). Compared to non-drinkers, however, binge drinkers had about four times the risk if they habitually drank up to six drinks at a sitting.

Heavier binge drinkers who consumed up to 12 or more drinks at a go had up to 12 times higher risk. The study did not identify enough female binge drinkers to enable a statistically relevant calculation of the risks.


Years ago, I informed one of my patients, who had a hangover when he came to see me, that binge drinking was bad for his health. He looked at me confidently and with a wave of the hand reassured me that he drank only lager, never touched binge and didn’t even know what it was!

Well, as the above study shows, alcohol and high blood pressure do not mix - in large quantities at least; it is not just about how much one drinks, but how one does it. Giving people an average might tempt some to do the math and decide that the weekend 12-drink blow-out is OK - as long they dry out during the week to bring the average down.

The message is that binge drinking is bad whatever your blood pressure, but it is particularly bad if you are hypertensive. It is also safe to assume that the same goes for women.

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