Alcohol and Blood Pressure

People have been enjoying alcoholic beverages for thousands of years in almost all parts of the world. While alcohol has a long history, it has not been possible to completely understand its effects on human health. Multiple studies have been conducted to identify the connection between blood pressure and alcohol, but there is still conflicting evidence with heated debates about the result.

Are Alcohol and Blood Pressure Related?

Several epidemiological surveys have tried to identify the exact relationship between alcohol consumption and blood pressure. Research shows that there may be an acute rise in blood pressure when someone has a single alcoholic drink, and it becomes normal in about a couple of hours. Moreover, studies show that the link between alcohol and blood pressure depends on how much alcohol is consumed.

A study published in NCBI shows that the blood pressure increases with regular consumption of alcohol, and there is 16% attributable risk for hypertensive disease in this case. It also suggests that you may notice an increase of 1mmHg when you drink 10g of alcohol. However, the intervention studies do not highlight the effects created by the vasodilator flavonoid components of red wine in reversing or lessening alcohol-related hypertension.

How Does Alcohol Affect Blood Pressure?

It is quite sure that regular drinking can lead to the development of hypertension – it can also worsen the condition. As to why alcohol can increase the blood pressure, there are some hypotheses. For instance:

  • Alcohol can lead to the constriction of blood vessels because it produces an increased sympathetic nervous system response. This may eventually lead to hypertension.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption may trigger the release of salts and hormones in the blood – this includes hormones like epinephrine, catecholamines, and salts such as calcium ions. These salts and hormones can affect cardiac functioning.
  • There may be dramatic fluctuations in blood pressure during the withdrawal period after heavy drinking sessions. This may affect the body's ability to regulate blood pressure.

There is no data available to know exactly how alcohol drives up blood pressure. Some studies do suggest that excessive drinking may actually change the heart-protective effects. Less than a couple of drinks may help a bit by increasing good cholesterol levels, but more research is required in this regard.

What Is a Moderate Amount of Alcohol to Use?

When talking about the connection between alcohol and blood pressure, it is extremely important to discuss how much is too much. There are certain health benefits of drinking a moderate amount of alcohol, but you still need to consider those benefits in relation to the negative effects it leaves on blood pressure. Cardiovascular benefits occur when men drink 10-20g of alcohol a day and women drink no more than 10g of alcohol a day. A 12-ounce beer, 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor, and a 5-ounce glass of wine are all equal to one drink. Going beyond these limits will have dire consequences.

You may notice a rise in your blood pressure after having more than a couple of drinks a day. There may be a rapid rise in blood pressure when someone has a couple of drinks in one sitting. The spike in blood pressure can be so high that it can lead to stroke.

Tips for Drinking Less Alcohol

Whether you are drinking more than what is considered safe or you are already drinking within the limits, you will always benefit more by reducing your alcohol intake. The following tips will help you do just that:

  • Whenever possible, opt for low-alcohol options, like low-strength beers, etc.
  • Pay attention to the label because you can now find how many units are there in different drinks.
  • Add water or mixers to your drinks to make them last longer.
  • Never eat bar snacks like peanuts and crisps with your drink because salt in snacks can make your blood pressure to go up quickly.
  • Keep a measure with you when you drink at home to know how much you have already drank.
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