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Women Who Drink Wine Were Found to Have Lowered Blook Pressure

Women who drink an average of a quarter to a half drink of alcohol daily have a 14 percent lower risk of developing high blood pressure than nondrinkers; while women who drank more than 1.5 drinks per day had an increased risk of hypertension, according to an article in the March 11 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, a member of the JAMA family of journals.

Ravi Thadhani, M.D., M.P.H., from the Channing Laboratory, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, and colleagues studied 70,891 women age 25 to 42 years for eight years to evaluate the association between alcohol consumption and risk of developing high blood pressure.

"The association between alcohol consumption and risk of chronic hypertension in young women follows a J-shaped curve, with light drinkers demonstrating a modest decrease in risk and more regular heavy drinkers demonstrating an increase in risk," write the researchers.

Of the 70,891 women, 5.9 percent (4,188 women) had incident hypertension during the eight-year follow up. The researchers found that the risk of developing hypertension based on the number of drinks consumed per day compared with nondrinkers is as follows:

  1. 0.25 drink or less = 4 percent lower risk of hypertension
  2. 0.26 to 0.5 drink = 14 percent lower risk of hypertension
  3. 0.51 to 1 drink = 8 percent lower risk of hypertension
  4. 1.01 to 1.5 drinks = equivalent risk of hypertension
  5. 1.51 to 2 drinks = 20 percent increased risk of hypertension
  6. More than 2 drinks = 31 percent increased risk of hypertension

"Among women in the highest category of alcohol consumption, there was a suggestion that the increased risk of hypertension was present regardless of the specific beverage consumed (beer, wine, or liquor). Episodic drinking, defined as consumption of more than 10.5 drinks over three or fewer days per week, was not associated with increased risk of hypertension," the researchers write.

According to background information in the article, in addition to causing disability and death, high blood pressure is linked to coronary and cerebrovascular disease and renal insufficiency. Heavy drinking is associated with increased risk of high blood pressure, and alcohol consumption is attributed to approximately 3 percent to 8 percent of hypertension in women.

The relationship between alcohol consumption and hypertension might be explained by alcohol's alteration of vascular tone and activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which regulates the involuntary activities of the glands and organs as well as controlling muscular and vascular tone.

The researchers conclude that heavy drinking, regular consumption of 1.5 drinks per day or more, increases a woman's risk for hypertension regardless of the alcoholic beverage consumed. The authors recommend primary care physicians use these data to counsel young women about alcohol consumption and hypertension risk.

(Arch Intern Med. 2002;162:569-574; available post-embargo at archinternmed.com) Editor's Note: This study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.

For more information contact the JAMA/Archives Media Relations Department at 312/464-5374.

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