Alcohol Abuse And Hypertension: Effects Of Alcohol On Blood Pressure
Heavy drinking can have harmful effects on blood pressure, especially among people who have a family history of hypertension or live with other health conditions. If you or a loved one is experiencing negative health effects as a result of alcohol abuse, consider seeking treatment in an alcohol abuse rehab program.
Drinking alcohol can cause a range of side effects on the central nervous system, including increased heart rate and high blood pressure.
Alcohol consumption is a known risk factor for high blood pressure and hypertension, alongside smoking, diabetes, and other health conditions. The risk of hypertension is even higher among heavy drinkers and those addicted to alcohol.
Defining Blood Pressure
Blood pressure refers to the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries, caused by your heartbeat. This force is measured using two numbers: systolic pressure and diastolic pressure.
Systolic blood pressure is the highest reading of your blood pressure each time your heart beats (the top number in a blood pressure reading), while diastolic blood pressure measures lower readings in-between beats (bottom number).
What Is High Blood Pressure?
According to the United States National Library of Medicine, about 1 in 3 adults have high blood pressure, or hypertension. Not every adult who has high blood pressure may realize it. High blood pressure generally doesn’t cause any noticeable symptoms.
The different thresholds for blood pressure readings:
- Normal: less than 120/80 mmHg
- Prehypertension: between 120/80 mmHg and 139/89 mmHg
- Stage 1 Hypertension: between 130-139 mmHg/80-89 mmHg
- Stage 2 Hypertension: higher than 140/90 mmHg
High blood pressure can be influenced by a range of factors related to family history, genetics, lifestyle, and certain behaviors like smoking and drinking.
If you have high blood pressure or are at risk for hypertension, your doctor may recommend that you reduce the amount of alcohol you drink, or abstain if possible. Alcohol use is known to increase high blood pressure, which can exacerbate existing blood pressure-related conditions.
The American Heart Association recommends that people who have high blood pressure—or are at risk for it—limit their drinking to no more than two drinks per day for men, or one drink per day for women.
How Alcohol Affects Blood Pressure
Alcohol has been linked to a variety of cardiovascular diseases, including heart disease and hypertension.
According to research on the side effects of alcohol, the primary mechanism believed to cause this is an increase in sympathetic nervous system activity caused by drinking. Alcohol’s effects on the brain and liver can also contribute to this.
It can take as little as a single alcoholic drink to cause a person’s blood pressure to jump. This may include a glass of wine, a 12 oz beer, or 1.5 oz of 80-proof liquor. Drinking more than this can have greater effects on blood pressure.
Dangers of having consistently high blood pressure include increased risk for:
- heart attack
- heart failure
- kidney failure
About 16 percent of hypertension cases in the United States are related to drinking. Despite what one might think, not all of these cases occur among heavy drinkers, or alcoholics.
According to a 2019 study from the American College of Cardiology, even moderate drinkers can experience significantly increased risk for high blood pressure.
Drinking heavy amounts of alcohol, or binge drinking, however, can be even more dangerous, leading to a wide range of chronic and potentially life-threatening health problems.
High Blood Pressure Among Heavy Drinkers
Heavy drinking, which is a common sign of alcohol abuse, can have dangerous effects on blood pressure, risking problems to the heart, kidneys, and liver.
Heavy drinking is defined as having more than four drinks a day for men, or more than three for women. Binge drinking is another form of heavy drinking that is defined as drinking five or more drinks within a two-hour timeframe.
Compared with people who don’t drink, research shows that heavy drinkers may be at higher risk for high blood pressure. Those who drink heavily may be up to 69 percent more likely to have stage 1 hypertension, and are 2.4 times more likely to have stage 2 hypertension.
Additional research shows that people who binge-drink at least two or three times a month may have a 70 percent greater chance of having high blood pressure, compared to the general population.
Heavy drinking may not be the only contributor to hypertension.
Additional factors that can affect blood pressure include:
- mixing alcohol with other drugs
- co-occurring health conditions (e.g. diabetes)
- family history of hypertension
- level of physical activity
- older age
Can Alcohol Lower Blood Pressure?
For some time, news circulated that drinking a glass of red wine could actually help to lower blood pressure and promote heart health.
However, the American Heart Association and other health agencies now dispute this, calling it a myth. The reality is that there isn’t ample evidence to suggest that alcohol can lower blood pressure or serve as an aid in blood pressure management.
Treatment For Alcohol-Related High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure can be treated through the use of certain blood pressure medications, as well as behavioral changes like improved diet, physical exercise, and reducing how much you drink.
If you’re a heavy drinker with blood pressure problems, you may need to discuss options for reducing your alcohol intake with your doctor.
The effectiveness of certain medications for blood pressure management and other interventions may depend on your stage of hypertension, how long you’ve had high blood pressure, and other personal factors related to your health.
If you’re addicted to alcohol and are unable to reduce how much you drink, your doctor may recommend that you seek treatment for alcohol abuse in a rehab center. Taking medication for high blood pressure won’t be effective if you’re still abusing alcohol.
Getting Help For Alcohol Abuse And Addiction
If you’ve developed high blood pressure as a result of your alcohol abuse, the best way to reverse this or manage your blood pressure is to seek alcohol abuse treatment. Over time, chronic alcohol abuse and high blood pressure can pose life-threatening risks to your health and well-being.
At Spring Hill Recovery Center, our alcohol rehab programs take into account the physical, mental, and psychological needs of people overcoming alcohol addiction. Our treatment specialists can personalize a treatment plan that is capable of addressing the effects of your alcohol abuse on health, including effects on blood pressure.
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol abuse, don’t wait to seek help. Contact our Massachusetts treatment center today to learn more about our alcohol rehab programs and the types of treatments we offer.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism—Drinking Levels Defined https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/moderate-binge-drinking
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus—How to Prevent High Blood Pressure https://medlineplus.gov/howtopreventhighbloodpressure.html
- American Heart Association—Limiting Alcohol to Manage High Blood Pressure https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/changes-you-can-make-to-manage-high-blood-pressure/limiting-alcohol-to-manage-high-blood-pressure
- The Journal of Clinical Hypertension—Five Phases of Blood Pressure in Alcoholics https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jch.12143
- Science Daily—Moderate alcohol consumption linked with high blood pressure: Study among the first to suggest moderate drinking harms, rather than protects, heart health https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190307081024.htm