Alcohol and High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure might be considered to be one of the most insidious of health problems. In most cases, it’s impossible to tell that you are suffering from high blood pressure until your health provider tells you or until you come down with one of the conditions it can bring. High blood pressure is a silent killer and can contribute to:

  • Heart disease. High blood pressure causes damage to the walls of the veins and arteries, making them less efficient at bringing oxygenated blood to different parts of the body. The heart will try to work harder to compensate, which can often lead to a heart attack.
  • Stroke. Strokes occur when blood is not delivered to the brain. Blood clots are more likely to form in people who have high blood pressure, and if one of these blocks the blood supply to the brain, a stroke will occur.
  • Kidney damage. The primary function of the kidneys is to remove waste material from the blood. The damage that high blood pressure causes to the arteries means that less blood will reach the kidneys, leading to scarring, aneurism, or failure.

While most people have learned that a glass of wine may provide protection for the heart, heavy drinking is definitely linked to high blood pressure and can lead to the above serious health conditions. People tend to forget that alcohol contains calories and can lead to obesity, which is another important factor in high blood pressure.

Those who engage in heavy drinking often have other habits that can contribute to high blood pressure – smoking and overeating.

Moderate vs. Heavy Drinking

Statistics tell us that about half of the people in the United States age 12 and older drink alcohol, and that 20% of those people can be considered alcoholics. As it has come to pass, the more alcohol a person drinks, the more likely he or she is to develop high blood pressure.

Moderate drinking, which will generally not cause any deleterious health effects, actually involves a very limited amount of alcohol: 1 drink a day for women and 2 for men under the age of 65, and only one drink for men older than this. Any amount of alcohol over this will be considered heavy drinking and can start to affect the blood pressure.

Binge drinking (pub crawling as it is referred to in Great Britain) is even more dangerous as the enormous amount of alcohol consumed in a relatively short period of time can cause a sharp upward spike in blood pressure. While blood pressure will return to normal after drinking is halted, for those who engage in heavy or nearly continuous drinking, blood pressure levels will remain elevated most of the time.

Getting Blood Pressure Under Control

Because uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to so many serious health complications curbing alcohol use should be addressed as soon as possible. Although the line between heavy drinking and actual alcoholism can be blurred, there are some factors that will indicate that a person is an alcoholic:

  • There will be a craving for alcohol that the person is unable to resist. The alcoholic will also have no control over how much alcohol is consumed.
  • Symptoms associated with withdrawal, such as nausea, vomiting, and hallucinations will be present when drinking is stopped.
  • The alcoholic will often begin drinking in the morning and will drink alone.
  • The use of alcohol will interfere not only with work or school, but also with previously enjoyed activities.
  • A tolerance to alcohol’s effects is built up so that larger amounts of alcohol are needed to produce a ‘high’.
  • Normal family life is destroyed as alcohol becomes the most important thing in the alcoholic’s life.
  • You wonder if you are an alcoholic.

Because alcoholism is now considered to be a disease, medical help is available to assist the person who wishes to stop drinking. Going ‘cold turkey’ with alcohol can actually be dangerous, and those who have long term drinking habits will require the care of a professional to stop drinking safely.

Although blood pressure does rise when alcohol is consumed, it does return to normal levels once the alcohol has left the system. The problem of high blood pressure becomes more critical when the alcohol intake is nearly constant or when other, pre-existing health conditions are present. Reducing or eliminating alcohol use can be a way to reduce high blood pressure and prevent chronic health problems from arising.

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