Does Alcohol Cause High Blood Pressure?
If you drink too much alcohol, it can affect your blood pressure and raise it to unhealthy levels. Drinking more than three drinks in one sitting increases your blood pressure temporarily, but repetitive binge drinking can result into long term blood pressure increase over time.
There is another high blood pressure risk factor associated with too much of alcohol consumption. Alcohol contains a lot of calories that can cause undesired weight gain. This can in turn lead to increase in your blood pressure levels over time.
Other harms that alcohol consumption can cause from high blood pressure perspective are that it can interfere with the effectiveness of some blood pressure medications and can also increase their side effects.
High Blood Pressure And Alcohol Effects
Researchers have long flaunted the heart advantages of drinking alcohol in small quantities. Some studies have ascribed moderate drinking with certain health benefits, such as from contributing to keep one’s mind sharp as one age to lowering of heart risk. The people who drink – cheers on hearing such studies and enjoy their evening moderate drinking even more!! But what about the people who don’t drink – should they start drinking? And are there some people who should not drink at all, under any circumstances?
So there comes a valid question how one should balance the health effects/benefits of drinking alcohol with its other side / negative effects and high calorie count?
Should You Drink Or Should Not?
Drinking moderate alcohol does have health benefits, but it can harm you as well. It all depends on your age, how much you drink and some other factors.
There is no doubt about that drinking too much alcohol can result into serious health and other problems. Excessive alcohol consumption does raise risk for the following:
(i) Liver Disease
(ii) Hypertension – High Blood Pressure
(iii) High Triglycerides (Blood Fats)
(iv) Heart Problems, such as Heart Attack/Failure, Stroke
(v) Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (if you’re pregnant)
(vi) Certain Cancers.
Also excessive drinking alcohol provides loads of calories, leading to obesity and in turn further leading to higher risk for diabetes.
And for certain people alcohol should be a big NO!! Following kinds of people should keep away from drinking, under any circumstances:
(i) Having health conditions, such as liver problems or ulcers
(ii) Those who are at risk of certain cancers
(iii) The ones who are taking certain medications that can interact with alcohol
(iv) Having history of pancreatitis (inflammation of pancreas)
(v) Requiring alertness or coordination to perform a task
(vi) Pregnant and breastfeeding women
(vii) Children and adolescents.
As per the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for middle-aged and older adults, moderate drinking is co-related with the lowest all-cause mortality (mortality means rate of death). The said guidelines on the other hand say that in case of younger adults, drinking alcohol offers little health benefits, if any. Instead in their case, it’s co-related with a higher risk of serious injury or death.
Alcohol’s Benefits For Heart And Blood Pressure
For both men and women, alcohols effects on the heart are well documented. Researchers have found that moderate drinking of alcohol can increase “good cholesterol” levels. Good cholesterol works to prevent harmful blood clots and contribute in keeping the blood flowing smoothly through our arteries, curtailing possibilities of heart attack and stroke.
Studies have shown that moderate drinking can raise levels of “good cholesterol” by as much as 20%, if it’s complimented by a healthy diet and regular physical activities.
Caution: Remember that exercise has many other health benefits and you should not try replacing exercise with alcohol.
Alcoholic Drinks – Which Type, How Much And When?
The experts say that it does not make great difference, whether you drink wine, beer or whisky. Alcohol is alcohol. What matter really is how much you drink? Our recommendation is that if you have high blood pressure, keep yourself away from consuming alcohol. And in other cases of not having high blood pressure, if you must then drink only in moderation. The guidelines for moderate drinking generally considered are:
(i) Two drinks per day for men younger than age 65.
(ii) One drink per day for men age 65 and older.
(iii) One drink per day for women of any age.
One drink is defined as 5 ounces (148 milliliters) of wine, 12 ounces (355 milliliters) of beer, or 1.5 ounces (44 milliliters) of 80-proof distilled spirits such as vodka.
The next important thing is when you drink. The best time to consume alcohol is while you are having meals. There are some studies that support that chance of having high blood pressure increase if you drink alcohol without eating.
Another reason for eating while consuming alcohol is because alcohol stimulates your appetite. When you eat along with alcohol, you slow down the stomach emptying time and so you eat less with the result you avoid weight gain. Weight gain is a risk factor for developing high blood pressure.
Can Reduction In Alcohol Consumption Lower Your High Blood Pressure?
The people who drink too much if cut down to moderate drinking can lower their systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) by 2 to 4 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and their diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number in a blood pressure reading) by 1 to 2 mm Hg. A point to be noted here is that they should reduce their alcohol consumption slowly over one to two weeks. Heavy drinkers who stop suddenly risk developing serious high blood pressure for several days.
And what about people who don’t drink at all?
The experts agree that, though alcohol has some health benefits, it’s not a good idea to start drinking – even moderately, if you don’t already.
Extra Calories – Another Risk Factor Of Drinking Alcohol
People are normally sedentary, so their needs for calories are relatively less. For instance, if you are on a 1,800-calorie plan, you have only 195 discretionary calories per day – that is equivalent to 9-ounce of wine only (“discretionary calories” means the ones you have left over after you eat all the nutritious foods you eat).
Alcohol is quite high in calories, but offers only few essential nutrients. Even if you drink too much of alcohol, you can’t get all the nutrients you need without taking in lots of calories. Heavy drinkers who substitute alcohol calories for nutritious foods run the risk of undernourishment. Moreover, liquid calories from alcohol do not satisfy hunger. Also the drinks made with high-calorie mixers can have as many as 410 calories per drink.
A well known dictum is: The more you weigh, the higher your blood pressure is likely to be – especially if you have a lot of your excess weight around your waist. So high calories in alcohol is another reason to avoid it. And if you want to enjoy your drink most days, then you should get into the habit of being more active physically. In any case the experts say the benefits of regular physical activities are much more than those of moderate drinking. To manage your blood pressure, try to go for at least 30 minutes physical activities.
The Bottom Line – High Blood Pressure And Alcohol
Drinking more than the maximum recommended levels does have serious long-term effects on your blood pressure. If you keep yourself within the recommended limits for alcohol, it will help in managing your blood pressure. Even if you are drinking within the daily unit guidelines, we recommend following lifestyle changes that you should make to maintain healthy blood pressure levels:
(i) Drink responsibly – not exceeding the recommended levels as per the above guidelines.
(ii) Go for low strength alcohol options.
(iii) Check the label to find out how many units a particular drink contains.
(iv) Have your drinks at your meal times and as a part of an overall healthy diet, and watching that you don’t exceed your calorie needs.
(v) Try a healthy meal before you start drinking. Have low-fat, low salt snacks with your drinks. It will help to slow down the absorption of alcohol and contribute in keeping your blood pressure down too.
(vi) Make your drink last longer by adding more water or low calorific mixers.
(vii) Avoid eating snack bars and peanuts along with drinking alcohol, as the added salt will tempt you to drink more.
(viii) Quit smoking.
(ix) Consume lots of fruits and vegetables. They contain less salt and fat, but are high in potassium and vitamins A and C, which contribute in lowering your blood pressure.
(x) Reduce consumption of saturated fats. This can leads to thickening of the lining in your arteries, increasing risk of heart stroke and high blood pressure.