Having high blood pressure is a common problem among people in the U.S., and it’s also one that can lead to serious or deadly complications. It’s important to take steps to maintain a healthy blood pressure level, and this can include making changes in your lifestyle, from the foods you eat to the level of activity you do.
So what about alcohol and high blood pressure? Is there a relationship between alcohol and high blood pressure, and if so, what is it?
The following offers a general overview of how having high blood pressure can affect you, as well as specifics related to alcohol and high blood pressure.
What Happens If You Have High Blood Pressure?
Before looking at the relationship between alcohol and high blood pressure, what is this condition? High blood pressure refers to a scenario where the pressure of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels is too high on a consistent basis. Of course, there can be spikes and dips that occur with your blood pressure temporarily, but the condition of having high blood pressure signifies that it’s more prolonged.
Blood pressure numbers come from measuring the blood pumping out of the heart and into the arteries and then measuring a force that occurs when your heart is resting between beats.
When you have high blood pressure, it makes it harder for your heart and vessels to work properly, and that can eventually cause damage to your arteries. The more damage that occurs to your arteries, the smaller the pathways inside them are, which can then cause further harm and lead to a variety of complications.
For many people with high blood pressure, there are no symptoms or indicators that something is wrong and this is why it can be referred to as a silent killer.
When you have high blood pressure, it increases your risk of things like stroke and heart attack, among other serious conditions.
Along with medication, most of the best things you can do to lower your blood pressure and maintain healthy readings are related to your lifestyle. For example, losing weight, exercising and eating a diet that’s low in fat and sodium are all helpful.
What is the Relationship Between Alcohol and High Blood Pressure?
The relationship between alcohol and high blood pressure can be somewhat of a complicated one.
First, if you drink moderately it can actually help lower your blood pressure, but there are some big stipulations to keep in mind. Research has shown that if you engage in light to moderate drinking, it can create a reduction in blood pressure in some people. In moderation, alcohol might lower blood pressure by 2 to 4 mm Hg. While this shows a beneficial link between alcohol and high blood pressure, it’s important to understand what’s meant by moderate.
For example, moderate drinking in women is defined as no more than one drink a day, and for men, two. The amount of alcohol in a drink is also relevant when it comes to alcohol and high blood pressure. For example, a drink when it comes to wine is only five ounces, so it’s important to be careful with how much you drink if you’re thinking about the link between alcohol and high blood pressure.
While the relationship between alcohol and high blood pressure can be a positive one when drinking is light to moderate, what about heavy drinking?
If you drink too much, it can have quite the opposite effect and raise your blood pressure.
If you’re a heavy drinker and you gradually cut back on alcohol, you can lower your blood pressure significantly in many cases. If you’re a long-term heavy drinker and you stop suddenly, it can cause a spike in blood pressure. Instead, slowly reduce the amount you drink to see improvements in blood pressure levels.
If you binge drink, which refers to heavy drinking in one setting, it can cause a spike in blood pressure, and if you’re a chronic binge drinker, high blood pressure can become long-term.
It’s important to note that in addition to the direct relationship between alcohol and high blood pressure, there can also be indirect links between alcohol and high blood pressure.
For example, excessive alcohol consumption can cause weight gain, and being overweight can put you at risk for having high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems. You might also make poorer dietary decisions if you regularly drink and your inhibitions are lowered, which can also indirectly cause your blood pressure to rise.
Summing Up—Alcohol and High Blood Pressure
The relationship between alcohol and high blood pressure can be a complex one. If you’re a light to moderate drinker, alcohol can help you maintain a healthy blood pressure. If you’re a binge or heavy drinker, it can cause your blood pressure to be higher.
It’s important to discuss any concerns you might have about alcohol and high blood pressure with your physician, who can help make recommendations specific to you.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.