The harmful chemicals in cigarettes can damage blood vessels and raise blood pressure while you smoke. In addition, smoking is one of the major risk factors for heart disease. If you need help quitting, take advantage of programs sponsored by the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association.

Prescription medications, such as bupropion (Zyban) and varenicline (Chantix), and a variety of nicotine-replacement products also are available. Counseling, either one-on-one or in a group, is another option.

Moderate alcohol consumption—one drink a day—lowers systolic blood pressure on average by 2 to 4 mm Hg. One drink is equivalent to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits. Nondrinkers shouldn't begin drinking to reduce blood pressure. Exceeding one drink a day can raise blood pressure, particularly in men.

Publication Review By: Lawrence Appel, M.D., and Rafael H. Llinas, M.D.

Published: 15 Jul 2013

Last Modified: 15 Jul 2013