How Does Alcohol Affect the Blood Pressure?
Many people drink alcohol on a regular basis for a number of reasons.
Some people drink to relax or unwind after a long day, some people drink to loosen their inhibitions, and some people drink because they feel that they cannot face a day without alcohol.
Whatever your reason for consuming alcohol, it is important to know the risks and dangers associated with it.
The NHS advises both men and women not drink more than 14 units of alcohol (roughly 6 pints of beer) a week, and to space your drinking days out throughout the week to reduce any health risks associated with alcohol (1).
Regular, heavy consumption of alcohol is detrimental to your health and increases your risk of high blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
What is blood pressure and why is it important?
Blood pressure is literally the pressure of your blood. It is measured in two numbers, a higher number is measured when your heart is contracting, and a lower number is measured when your heart is relaxed.
If your blood pressure becomes too high, it can cause scarring of the lining of the arteries. This scarring can restrict or block blood flow to the heart, brain, and other organs putting you at risk of a heart attack or a stroke.
Maintain healthy blood pressure is important as there is often no way for us to know if we have dangerously high blood pressure without having a medical professional measure it for us.
In many cases, high blood pressure is not evident until it is too late – for example, a person may have no symptoms of high blood pressure until they have a heart attack or a stroke.
Does alcohol really affect your blood pressure?
A study of the blood pressure of 132 alcoholic patients showed that over half had significantly high blood pressure.
This same study also showed that the blood pressure returned to normal in patients who detoxified from alcohol (2) and remained normal after a year of abstaining from alcohol.
This same study also showed that in those whose blood pressure returned to normal after detoxification, their blood pressure rose again when they started consuming alcohol again.
Several other studies have proven a link between excessive alcohol consumption and alcohol-induced hypertension (3).
It is also worth noting that alcohol contains sugar and empty calories which leads to weight gain. Being overweight is a common cause of high blood pressure.
Can I prevent high blood pressure?
There are several steps you can take to prevent high blood pressure or lower your risk of developing high blood pressure.
Making healthy choices in regard to food and drink, as well as living an active and healthy lifestyle will make a considerable difference to your overall health.
Some ways to lower your risk of high blood pressure are:
1. Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight increases your chances of developing high blood pressure. Keeping yourself at a healthy weight will lower your risk of developing high blood pressure as well as a range of other health conditions associated with a high BMI.
2. Get active
Being physically active can help with weight loss and high blood pressure. It also is proven to improve sleep as well as the general quality of your life. It is recommended that an adult gets 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day, for example, a brisk walk or a swim (4).
3. Do not smoke
Smoking is known to have many negative effects to your health, including increasing your risk of developing high blood pressure. If you smoke, you will reduce your chances of developing high blood pressure by cutting down or quitting completely.
4. Get enough sleep
If you regularly get a poor night’s sleep, you will increase your chances of developing high blood pressure. Sleeping helps to keep your heart and arteries healthy, so it is important to make sure you getting enough restful sleep every night.
5. Try to limit stress
If you are regularly stressed out, you will increase your risk of developing high blood pressure. If you find that you are stressed often, it is a good idea to find ways to help you relax.
This could be through meditation, going for a nature walk or listening to calming music.
It might also be a good idea to speak to your healthcare provider if you are finding it difficult to deal with stress or anxiety.
6. Limit your alcohol intake
Regularly consuming alcohol, especially excessive amounts, can cause high blood pressure.
Limiting your amount to no more than 14 units a week will lower your chances of developing high blood pressure. Also having several non-drinking days a week will also help reduce your risk.
7. Make better choices
This is true in all aspects of your life, whether it is pertaining to diet or exercise. However, this is also true with alcohol consumption.
Many people are social drinkers and enjoy drinking with friends and will have no desire to give up completely. If this is the case, making better alcohol choices can also help reduce your risk.
For example, alcohol that is high in sugar content such as alcopops are going to be worse for your health than a small gin and slimline tonic as it contains less sugar. Making sure to drink plenty of water between alcoholic drinks can also help.
8. Don’t be afraid to seek help
If you find that you are regularly drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, you might have an addiction.
Don’t be afraid to contact your GP for advice, they will have plenty of experience in dealing with this and will know the best ways to help you.
Also, let close friends and family members know if you are struggling. Having some emotional support will help get you through. Many people suffer from addictions and your loved ones will only want to help you get better.
9. Avoid situations that might perpetuate the problem
If you find that you only drink when you are with certain people or in certain places, it might be a good idea to avoid these things until you are better able to control your urges.
Let the people around you know that you intend to cut back on or give up drinking so that they can support you and help you make better choices.
It is clear that there is a link between excessive alcohol consumption and high blood pressure.
Making better choices and making your intentions known are good ways to limit your alcohol intake and reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure.