For women, a little alcohol — say, two or three drinks a week — seems to lower the risk of developing high blood pressure, while more — two drinks a day or more — seems to raise it, according to a new study.
“There has been very good evidence that four drinks a more a day can lead to high blood pressure, but the question has been what happens below that,” said Dr. Eric B. Rimm of the Harvard School of Public Health, one of the authors of a study published last week in The Archives of Internal Medicine. The researchers looked at data on 70,000 women between the ages of 25 and 42 collected at the start of the Nurses’ Health Study II and compared the information on drinking habits with reports of hypertension over the next eight years.When they adjusted the results for factors like diet and exercise, the researchers found a J-shaped curve, with the risk level dropping as alcohol consumption increased from none to two drinks a week, going back up to average for those having a little more than one drink a day, then rising slowly.
Dr. Rimm noted that current guidelines recommend one drink a day for women and two a day for men to help prevent heart disease. “This fits in nicely with that,” he said. “But it’s important to remember that this is just one factor, and that you have to think about diet and physical activity as well.”