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How Alcohol Affects Blood Pressure



Alcohol & Blood pressure - front cover

All mammals need blood pressure; the heart must force blood around the body to transport oxygen and nutrients to keep the system alive.

The blood cells move around in a fluid called blood plasma.

To do this in the human body, the heart needs to push the blood plasma through miles of narrow arteries, and veins, and then back again.

The heart also must combat gravity, blood wants to sink to the lowest part of the body, but there must be enough pressure to bring it back.

The hearts of tall people need to pump harder than short people.

Types of blood pressure

There are two types of blood pressure:

  • Systolic – The blood that is pumped from the heart at full pressure around the body and through the entire body. Giving a numerical value to the pressure in the heart
  • Diastolic – The resting pressure, how long the pressure takes to reduce, gives a sign of the condition of the body’s veins and arteries

Normal systolic blood pressure should be less than 120 mm Hg and diastolic less than 80 mm Hg.

Pressures above 130/80 mm Hg means that it is time to see a doctor if you are not already doing so.

It is acceptable to have an interim period of higher blood pressure when exercising.

Prolonged periods of high pressure will damage the body [1].

The role of age

Age is also a major consideration as most off us in our youth at some point will have lived life to the edge.

The effects of heavy drinking and eating from the night before will take days to recover from rather than a few hours in the morning.

And if we continue that path and as we get older, the dangers increase.

Young bodies are more forgiving to abuse and recover faster. As we get older, body parts to become less forgiving.

Just because we do not suffer from a hangover, it is still not a good sign, quite the opposite.

It could mean that our tolerance has increased and that we have a serious problem.

Does Alcohol Help Reduce High Blood Pressure?

The simple answer is no!  Apart from causing mental health issues, which include alcohol-induced anxiety [2], alcohol does no good at all.

Any benefit that alcohol has of reducing cholesterol, are outweighed by the damage done by the drug itself.

One of the dangers comes from the misunderstanding that a glass of red wine is good for us.

There are many other ways to reduce blood pressure and lead a healthy life, alcohol is not one of them. It is a simple case of logic.

We use alcohol to clean surfaces and wounds because it kills off the bacteria that live on them by destroying cell walls.

Alcohol is a psychoactive drug; it is a depressant. While the short-term effect is to slow the body, the recovery period brings back the same problems, including high blood pressure.

You can keep drinking it and never stop, then you would have continued increasing your consumption to beat the tolerance.

Until you reach a point where you must stop, and the body will give up. The safest and most effective way of reducing blood pressure in not drinking in the first place and pursuing a healthier lifestyle.

Is High Blood Pressure Affected by Alcohol?

Liver-disease is one of the most familiar alcohol-related conditions.

The liver is a very smart organ that aids the digestion of our food with:

  • The Production of Bile
  • Hormone Production – Including Angiotensinogen
  • Breaking Down Fat
  • Storage of Glucose

Bile is a nasty substance to have to vomit out after a night of heavy drinking, but bile does serve a purpose.

Bile is a surfactant, meaning that it breaks the surface tension between gas and solid, and solid and liquid.

The liver releases bile via the bile duct into the small intestine to dissolve certain fats.

Alcohol and alcohol abuse upset the process of sorting the fats from nutrients that get absorbed by the large intestines.

This fat is hard for the intestine to process and needs to work harder, increasing the demands of the heart to send blood to power this work.

When the liver is damaged, it has the capability to rebuild itself if given the opportunity.

Alcohol will scar the liver if consumed excessively, and it will shrink.

The liver, like all organs in the body, will fail to function correctly under the influence of alcohol.

Angiotensinogen, as a hormone, regulates cells in the body responsible for blood pressure [3].

Angiotensinogen also affects the level of sodium stored in your kidneys.

Sodium is a vasoconstrictor, meaning that it causes the arteries and veins to constrict.

If the liver is unable to function correctly, this hormone can flow unchecked through the body and cause high blood pressure.

Glucose is a form of sugar and energy for our bodies. The liver helps to process food into glucose and stores it.

Excessive glucose can cause hypertension and certain levels of diabetes [4].

Alcohol will convert in the liver directly to sugar, and this can cause a major issue.

The pancreas cannot produce enough insulin to deal with the glucose, and the sugar runs free in the body.

Glucose, on its own, cannot enter cells and needs insulin as a key. This results in damage to the kidneys and the blood vessels, causing high blood pressure.

What are the Effects of High Blood Pressure?

One of the most common issues with hypertension are heart attacks and stroke, but the list is extensive:

  • Sleep Apnea – Breathing stops while sleeping.
  • Kidney Disease
  • Thyroid Issues – Controls metabolism and the rate at which you process food.
  • Tumors on the Adrenal Gland – Controls adrenaline, the fight or flight hormone.
  • Blood Vessel – Hardening and constricting.
  • Heart Attacks
  • Aneurysms
  • Dementia

It is amazing how many people know of these issues and how to treat it yet continue to ignore the signs.

Some of these diseases take years, even decades, to take hold.

But once our bodies reach a certain age, the chances of recovery and recuperation are reduced.

High blood pressure has many other demons that may not be life-threatening on their own, but they are all signs that it is time to change your lifestyle.

Excessive vomiting after a night of drinking can produce bile. Bile is a dark green to yellow colour and could show damage to the gland, this, in turn, may signify damage to other organs.

Eyes are one of the easiest ways to check for hypertension.

A simple visit to an optician can determine if you are at risk.

We have all seen someone with blood-red eyes during, and after, a heavy night of binge drinking.

High blood pressure in the eyes causes the eyes to flow rich with blood, and this effect is a sign of excessive pressure.

Even if the eyes appear white, the back of the retina will tell a professional the whole story.

Among other signals an optician can see:

  • Narrow Blood Vessels
  • Blood Spots
  • Swelling of the Optic Nerve
  • Bleeding

Left unchecked and untreated these issues can progress, leading to losing the function of an eye or other organ complications.

Does Red wine Reduce Hypertension?

Drinking a glass of red wine was once considered as good for the heart.

This was later manipulated into, If a glass is good, then several glasses is even better”.

The logic behind the original report is based on a report that red wine holds antioxidants [5].

Antioxidants combat the effects of the free radicals, which pass through our bodies, damaging the cells in our bodies.

Antioxidants

Free radicals break the strands of DNA in our bodies, the building blocks of cell reproduction.

Cells damaged by free radicals still try to replicate, making copies of the mutation. If enough of these mutations occur, the cell can become cancerous.

Antioxidants are prevalent in red wine, but they also come in organics such as kidney beans, spinach, and chocolate.

And other drinks such as black and green teas.

Free Radicals:

  • Linked to Aging
  • Damage DNA strands
  • Contribute to a range of diseases
  • Present in alcohol

The alcohol in wine reduces the effectiveness of antioxidants, and it is near impossible to prescribe a beneficial amount.

Wine is not medication. Red wine is now considered to have fewer benefits than thought.

Non-alcoholic wine shows a dramatic improvement in lowering blood pressure over alcoholic wine.

It is also accepted that too much red wine will increase the chances of developing some form of organ disease.

Medical Solutions to Alcohol-Related Hypertension

Medicines have come a long way, and if caught and treated in the early stages, those suffering from hypertension can continue to live as normal.

Treating any ailment, with medication is not ideal, but it is lifesaving.

Age and bad habits are closely related to hypertension, and the older we get, the less appealing changing our lifestyles become [6].

Depending on the exact condition, and patient history, doctors will prescribe among other drugs:

  • Inhibitors or Blockers to regulate hormone production
  • Diuretics help flush toxins and excess fluids from the kidney and liver
  • Beta-Blockers reduce the amount of adrenaline that can enter the bloodstream, causing the heart to beat slower

These medications are not the perfect solution, but they keep people alive.

The best prescription is the prevention of developing hypertension by reducing alcohol intake.

Once the use of these prescriptions becomes part of the body’s daily routine, the possibilities of coming off the drugs reduce with age.

The compulsion for a patient to balance their lifestyle disappears with medicating hypertension.

These drugs are expensive and are available as a prescription only.

Meaning that those on the drug must make regular visits to their doctors and pharmacies to stay active.

These drugs can also have unpleasant side-effects such as dizziness and create problems on their own.

These are life-saving drugs and reduce future complications.

That is not to say that improving your habits will not improve your health. It is never too late to start exercise, healthier food, and drop bad habits.

Natural Ways to Lower Blood Pressure

Medication is essential for those that have dangerously high second stage hypertension.

And even as prevention to damaging the body in stage 1 hypertension.

If spending the rest of your retirement on medication does not appeal, there are ways to reduce and cut high blood pressure early in life.

  • Better Food
  • Healthy Beverages
  • Cut Down on Bad Habits – Smoking, Drinking.
  • More Exercise

1. Food

Foods can function as antioxidants, as mentioned above, and reduce blood pressure in other ways.

But some of these methods can only be used if not currently taking medication.

Foods rich in potassium reduce the levels of sodium in the body and reduce blood pressure.

Foods such as:

  • Fruit – Bananas, Avocados, Melons
  • Fish – Tuna, Salmon
  • Vegetables – Greens, Potatoes, Tomatoes
  • Nuts and Pulses

2. Beverage

We have already concluded that alcohol is bad for us, but that leaves the hole of what do you drink instead.

Dairy such as milk and yoghurt have sodium fighting potassium, but not everyone likes dairy.

Dark chocolate drinks or pure cocoa, with little or no sugar, are proven to reduce blood pressure [7].

Avoiding drinks with added sugar will make a huge difference. Salt is common in processed and restaurant food, so it is good to balance them out with some of the items mentioned above.

3. Habit

Habits like smoking and drinking tend to go hand in hand. Depending on the level of addiction, it may require professional help to stop either or both.

Neither one habit is better than the other, and both are extremely hard to give up.

Yet these two habits are the 2 worst addictive substances in the US [8].

Over 40 million smokers and 18 million drinkers are not small groups standing for a diverse range of addictions.

These are the first two items to cut out of your life if you are affected by them.

4. Exercise

A good amount of exercise would be considered as over 2.5 hours per week beyond your regular chores [9].

Exercise can include walking or swimming; you do not need to enrol in a marathon. Exercise not only improves heart strength and reduces blood pressure.

Exercise makes a great substitute for going out and parting on a Friday night.

Exercise reduces stress and the desire to resort to old habits.

Going for a walk 3 times a week and living healthy is far better than the alternative.

References

[1] https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/the-facts-about-high-blood-pressure/what-is-high-blood-pressure

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3860396/

[3] https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/hy1201.101214

[4] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/317220.php

[5] https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/non-alcoholic-red-wine-may-lower-blood-pressure-201209125296

[6] https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/changes-you-can-make-to-manage-high-blood-pressure/types-of-blood-pressure-medications

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18614722/

[8] https://www.addictioncenter.com/addiction/10-most-common-addictions/

[9] https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults

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