High blood pressure: Why drinking too much alcohol increases your risk
High blood pressure is usually caused by an overindulgence in an unhealthy activity. Processed foods tend to have a high salt content, for example, which can cause blood pressure to jump. Regularly drinking large amounts of alcohol can also increase the risk. The reasons are both direct and indirect.
People who drink a lot of alcohol are less likely to eat, and when they do, they are more likely to eat food that is unhealthy
According Alcohol.org, alcohol can temporarily elevate blood pressure.
The effect will wear off once a person stops drinking and their liver processes alcohol out of their body.
With excessive consumption of alcohol, however, experiencing high blood pressure as a side effect may become a chronic problem.
Excessive alcohol consumption can tighten the blood vessels, as the health body explained: “Alcohol consumption increases the amount of lipids, or fats, that are in the bloodstream, which can damage the arteries, leading to hardening; this can increase blood pressure. Hardened arteries also increase the risk of blood clots, which can cause heart attack or stroke.”
It can also indirectly exacerbate the risk.
Alcohol is high in calories and sugar, which can increase the risk of putting on weight – a common culprit of the condition.
“People who drink a lot of alcohol are less likely to eat, and when they do, they are more likely to eat food that is unhealthy. They are also less likely to exercise due to being intoxicated much of the time,” it added.
According to Blood Pressure UK, if people stay within the recommended drinking limits, alcohol will not cause a serious spike in blood pressure.
The current UK guidelines are that all adults, men and women, consume no more than 14 units of alcohol a week.
“One unit of alcohol is the equivalent of 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol. But because alcoholic drinks have different strengths and come in different sizes, knowing what counts as a unit is not always easy – it’s often a lot less than you think,” warns the charity.
People should be particularly vigilant when drinking wine, it said: “The alcohol content of wine ranges from 11 percent to 14 percent, which means a single 175ml glass can contain between 1.9 and 2.4 units and a 250ml glass can contain between 2.8 and 3.5 units.”
People should aim to spread evenly spread drinking over a few days and avoid binge drinking which is classed as drinking more than six units in six hours – that’s less than three 175ml glasses of wine or three pints of beer in an evening.
Even if people stay within the guidelines, Blood Pressure UK recommends the following tips to reduce the risk:
- Try low-alcohol options – there are now a number of lower-strength beers on the market
- Check the label – many drinks’ labels now tell you how many units they contain
- Make your drinks last longer by adding mixers or water
- Don’t eat bar snacks like crisps and peanuts – the added salt will make you want to drink more, and will raise your blood pressure
- If you drink at home, buy a measure so that you know how much you are drinking.
According to the NHS, other ways to cut the risk of a soaring blood pressure include:
- Reduce the amount of salt you eat and have a generally healthy diet
- Lose weight if you’re overweight
- Exercise regularly
- Cut down on caffeine
- Stop smoking
- Try to get at least 6 hours of sleep a night
- It is also important to get your blood pressure reading regularly tested, particularly if you are over forty, added the NHS.
- You can get your blood pressure tested at the following places:
- At your local GP surgery
- At some pharmacies
- As part of your NHS Health Check
- In some workplaces
A blood pressure test can also be conducted at home with a blood pressure monitor.
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