Drinking Alcohol and Hypertension: Think You Are Not At Risk?
Pretend you are me. Forty-three, and always had chronically low blood pressure – almost to the point of hypotension. I used to get it measured at anywhere between 80-50 mmHg to 100-70 mmHg. Not so much anymore…
I’m not overweight. I eat right. I don’t really smoke cigarettes. And I exercise frequently, getting cardio at least 3-4 times per week.
But now, my blood pressure runs on the high side of normal to the low side of above average. But why? I realize that this is not hypertension, per say, but it does reveal how alcohol was gradually affecting my health – despite my engagement in other health habits.
Well, I am a recovering alcoholic. There’s no guarantee that’s the reason, but it’s a darn good suspect.
You see, alcohol and hypertension are intricately related. Drinking heavily can raise blood pressure beyond normal levels. Consumption of more than just 3 drinks during one occasion can temporarily increase your blood pressure. Repeated sessions of heavy drinking can lead to long-term effects.
The good news is that cutting back or stopping altogether can help bring blood pressure down. Systolic pressure (the top number) can fall by 2-4 millimeters of mercury (mmHg), and result in a reduction of 1-2 mmHg in diastolic blood pressure.
Also, alcohol is very calorie-rich, and often contributes to weight gain – another risk factor for hypertension. This was not my problem, but it affects many, many adults in the U.S. If you are overweight, cutting calories and losing weight can help, as well.
However, heavy drinkers who are concerned about blood pressure should slowly reduce how much they are drinking rather than quit abruptly. This is because they are at risk for a sudden hike in blood pressure during withdrawal.
However, detoxing in a medical facility is highly preferred. This is because a patient can quit cold turkey safely under 24-hour medical supervision.
And of course, in addition to hypertension, heavy alcohol consumption can lead to heart failure, stroke, and heart arrythmia (irregular heart beat.) It can also trigger high triglycerides, and contribute to variety of cancers, as well as liver disease.
Also, if you have a family history of high blood pressure, your personal risk of drinking alcohol and hypertension-related symptoms also increase.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology