Background: Heavy alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of hypertension. However, the effect of moderate alcohol consumption; the specific effects of wine, beer, and liquor; and the pattern of drinking in relation to risk of hypertension among young women are unclear.
Methods: We prospectively examined the association between alcohol consumption and subsequent risk of hypertension among 70 891 women 25 to 42 years of age.
Results: During the 8 years of follow-up, 4188 cases (5.9%) of incident hypertension were reported. After adjustment for multiple covariates, the association between alcohol consumption and risk of hypertension followed a J-shaped curve. Compared with nondrinkers, the risk of developing hypertension according to average number of drinks consumed per day was as follows: 0.25 or less, 0.96 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.89-1.03); 0.26 to 0.50, 0.86 (95% CI, 0.75-0.98); 0.51 to 1.00, 0.92 (95% CI, 0.82-1.04); 1.01 to 1.50, 1.00 (95% CI, 0.80-1.24); 1.51 to 2.00, 1.20 (95% CI, 0.92-1.58); and more than 2.0 drinks, 1.31 (95% CI, 1.02-1.68). Exclusion of past drinkers yielded similar results. 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 3 or fewer days per week, was not associated with increased risk of hypertension (relative risk, 0.80; 95% CI, 0.51-1.23).
Conclusions: 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.