Does alcohol affect your blood pressure – 10 facts
The answer seems to be a bit mixed in some areas so let’s first look at what it is and then we get to the question: does alcohol affect your blood pressure?
What is it though, people see it as the silent killer and I can see why when it comes to alcohol.
When your heart beats, it pumps blood around your body to give the body the energy and oxygen it needs. Pressure is what makes the blood go around our body so its pretty key right?
The pressure it creates pushes against artery walls ( the blood vessels) so when we measure our blood pressure it is really just a measure of the strength of this pushing plus resistance from the artery walls.
Normally there is no issue and the blood goes around the body easily, at a low healthy pressure. High blood pressure is simply this. It means pressure wise your heart must pump harder and the arteries have to carry blood that’s flowing under greater pressure.
Ever pushed so hard on something that it snapped? You get the idea!
This increases your risk of a heart attack, a stroke or suffering from kidney disease.
According to my doctor yes alcohol can affect our blood pressure big time!
- Regularly drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure over time.
- Staying within the recommended levels is the best way to reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure:
- Men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week
- Spread your drinking over 3 days or more if you drink as much as 14 units a week
- Find out how many units are in your favorite drink and get tips on cutting down.
- Alcohol is also high in calories, which will make you gain weight and can further increase your blood pressure
What should your blood pressure be?
Well let’s be honest no-one makes it very easy to understand. It’s complicated so I have tried to keep it to some basic facts.
If you are looking at a basic blood pressure machine, these figures will be listed in the display.
- Its measured millimeters of mercury known as (mm Hg)
- You are normally looking at 2 figures
- Systolic pressure so this is the pressure that is created when your heart is pushing your blood out around your body
- Diastolic pressure is when the machine measures the pressure as your heart rests between beats. Think the rhythm of Bee Gees “staying alive”.
- So as you look at the monitor if say the reading is “140 over 90” or 140/90mm Hg, at the time of taking your results you have a systolic pressure of 140mm Hg and a diastolic pressure of 90mm Hg.
What the heck does that mean?
Your ideal blood pressure ideally would be around 90/60mm Hg and 120/80mm Hg
If it is high it would be saying high blood pressure is considered to be 140/90mm Hg.
Low blood pressure is considered to be 90/60mm Hg or lower.
Remember I am not a medical practitioner and this blog is about my personal experience so always get your blood pressure checked with a medical professional.
However, they will always highlight the following areas:
So 10 facts worth knowing about alcohol and blood pressure and remember we are all different!
10 – A basic guide is a few not many
In moderation, alcohol can lower your blood pressure by a few points. Although most experts agree in the big scheme of things this is not really relevant. Drink too much and any benefit would go straight out the window!
However, this is often ignored by many of the headlines we see which imply a drink after work can really help with stress.
Of course, it ends up bringing more then one and as my consultants points out measures have got bigger and bigger.
Just look at the size of a wine glass nowadays or “have a large glass and get the bottle for FREE”.
One session like that if you can say bye to you keeping to the recommended amount! Remember one standard drink equals one unit to keep it simple.
9 – Binge Drinking will do it!
If you read some of the medical journals you may come across a phrase that was new to me and it’s called “Atherosclerosis”.
The article itself related to the fact that in research scientists looked at binge drinking on a regular basis could lead to this condition. Its why having a so-called a dry month once a year may not be the best of ideas!
Now medically this means that there is a hardening and or a narrowing of arteries which as we know which can result in a heart attack or stroke. We don’t want that do we!
8- Don’t always blame the alcohol blame the calories
Alcohol is high in calories and sugar. So guess what as the drink piles up so does your weight if you are not balancing it out. Alcohol is also “empty calories” so the nutritional value is a big zero!
We know the more weight we carry the bigger the impact it has on blood pressure.
The golden rule came in a book I read once on diets, it was one page, it’s simply said “calories in calories out”! Diet sorted. Expensive book but true!
7- Even giving up alcohol can increase your blood pressure
You just can’t win can you ! Alcohol withdrawal refers to the stuff that happens to us when someone who drinks a lot stops suddenly overnight so “cold turkey”.
It is why giving up with alcohol gradually although hard is a good idea as otherwise it can result in increased risk of high blood pressure and can lead to severe or life-threatening symptoms.
It’s often why supervised medical detox from alcohol is sometimes needed. This is not an excuse for not bothering by way.
When my liver started to pack up I was just an average wine drinker the phrase “you may have 48 hours to live” made me stop straight away with no symptoms whatsoever.
As Zene said to Tom in Jerry Maquire “you had me at hello!”
6 – It goes up and down like a yo-yo
Sometimes when we drink alcohol it can lower your blood pressure for around six hours, maybe more. After that, blood pressure goes up again for up to 24 hours and can stay with us until the next drink so you get into what they call a yo-yo cycle.
5- Targeting countries with a high alcohol level was advised to reduce the burden on health services
If you want more evidence on blood pressure and alcohol according to a report in lancet targeting countries with high alcohol intake can reduce the impact on health services.
So if there was a marketing campaign that managed to get people to reduce their drinking intake just a bit on a regular basis, the effect would be massive on the local health service. Crikey what a stat!
4 – Lifestyle and Genetics play a role
According to one expert in this area Arthur Klatsky, MD, former chief of cardiology in Oakland, CA you also have to look at genetic and overall lifestyle. It’s true that when my liver started to fail, genetics was mentioned to me given I was not walking around with a bottle of vodka in my pocket!
What he was saying made sense, which is that some people just should not touch alcohol because of a family history or alcohol abuse, heart or liver disease. However, if there is no history, having a few glasses may be fine.
Makes for common sense. He also highlights age of course as a factor so:
“Adults above the age of 50 are at much higher risk of heart attack and stroke than they are of any possible harmful effects to light-moderate drinking. So even if they have high blood pressure, they could see the health benefit from something like a glass of red wine a day.”
No wonder people get confused!
3. The Red Wine line is confusing
One study found that three glasses of red wine a day over a month led to a significant drop in blood pressure in men with heart disease risk factors but for others there was no benefit at all.
This is complicated and difficult to understand even at a basic level where one glass rarely leads to just one!
2. Stress and alcohol don’t mix
Ever heard of white coat syndrome? Well it’s real. I often assist my partner with a blood pressure check due to some medication that needs regular monitoring and it can raise blood pressure.
The same thing happens, when the strap is attached and it makes that weird noise, guess what.
The blood pressure goes through the roof. So the worry caused by being judged about your blood pressure soars. It shows you don’t even need a white coat!
Now imagine adding alcohol and a hangover into the mix. Alcohol changes our chemical make up and can make us anxious especially if we are in the middle of a really bad hangover.
Have you ever had the shakes or a total brain fog then become anxious. This is a panic attack caused by alcohol. So as we drink more our brain connections can be disconnected so we get confused.
Hair of the dog might seem like a good idea but anxiety and alcohol are closely linked. As we know from white coat syndrome stress can cause our blood pressure to rise.
So if you are going through a tough time it’s easy to think alcohol adds to the “easing “ of stress but long term it only adds to the risk connected with blood pressure.
1 -Alcohol free alternatives may help
Seriously since I was given 28 hours to live and dodged a bullet with my liver alcohol free so 0.0% has been the way forward and I have seen my blood pressure fall to normal.
There are more alcohol free choices coming to market all the time and its a lifeline to those of us who can’t, choose, or don’t want to drink alcohol. It is worth giving it a good try with the market growing in excess of 24 % every year. It a trend that is growing!
That tells me people are looking for alternatives and they now taste really good from gin to alcohol free beer. It really does take away the social stigma of not drinking in a world where you are mocked if you don’t and mocked if you do.
One word of caution though. Not having alcohol is a major plus for blood pressure and our overall health but they do have calories.
As I said to my mate it is alcohol free not calorie free.
As a general rule alcohol free drinks can help in two ways, one it keeps alcohol out of your system and could be used to reduce weight albeit on a lower level.
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Does alcohol affect your blood pressure?
It’s clear that yes alcohol can really affect our blood pressure and yet in some cases a few glasses of wine can help but overall the picture is not good. Of course, it’s all about balance.
I would love to know what you think about blood pressure and alcohol and any experiences you may have had. I love reading your comments. Would you consider having an alcohol free beer or wine to help with the reduction in the pressure on your heart?
I always read your comments and will get back to you as soon as I can.