Is There A Link Between High Blood Pressure And Alcohol?
Most people enjoy a drink, and on a night out can consume several drinks without either thinking about it or experiencing any adverse side effects.
However, drinking excessive alcohol is now known to increase blood pressure to levels that can be of great concern. The latest studies indicate that drinking as “little” as three drinks in a session can temporarily increase your blood pressure.
Three drinks may not sound like much, but they can include a high number of alcohol units and therefore make a significant contribution to the weekly recommended safe limit. In fact, three pints of strong beer could exceed the weekly safe limit!
If this type of drinking becomes regular, it can lead to a long-term increase in blood pressure.
It doesn’t matter what your favorite tipple is, all alcohols have the same effect on blood pressure. The longer someone drinks alcohol, the more sustained the high blood pressure is.
Besides increasing blood volume, alcohol is also high in calories. This is another contributing factor for high blood pressure.
Even heavy drinkers who reduce their intake of alcohol can lower the systolic and diastolic blood pressure by a few millimeter of mercury. Alcoholics should know that reducing intake can lower the blood pressure in as little as 2-3 weeks and if the drinking is stopped completely, then the fall in blood pressure is sustained for the long-term.
Healthcare experts indicate that people who already have high blood pressure should only drink in moderation.
Is Mixing Alcohol And High Blood Pressure Medication Safe?
Many people who have high blood pressure drink a moderate amount of alcohol. The general belief is that drinking small amounts of alcohol will not raise the blood pressure and in fact may help lower blood cholesterol. While this is true, most people do not seem to appreciate that alcohol can also interfere with effectiveness of blood pressure medications.
Alcohol adds volume to the body and increases weight gain because of the high calorie content. The most common blood pressure pills are the water pills, which lower blood pressure by getting rid of excess fluid. So drinking alcohol defeats the purpose of these medications.
Furthermore, alcohol also increases the adverse effects of medications and can lead to complications like damage to the heart, liver, lung and worsen depression.
Even when alcohol is taken in small amounts it can sometime intensify the side effects of blood pressure medication by inducing drowsiness, sleepiness and lightheadedness. Many reports exist where alcohol, in combination with certain blood pressure medications, can interfere with the ability to operate machinery or even drive a motor vehicle.
The effects of alcohol and blood pressure medications are often more serious in the elderly who already have borderline function. The combination of small amounts of alcohol and blood pressure medications can easily lead to alcohol toxicity since the elderly are not able to breakdown alcohol as effectively as young people.
The best advice is to avoid alcohol completely when taking not only blood pressure medications but also all types of medications and health supplements.
Does Alcohol Withdrawal Cause High Blood Pressure?
Quitting alcohol is known to be associated with a variety of withdrawal symptoms. These can vary in intensity and generally tend to be more severe when the alcohol is stopped abruptly.
Withdrawal symptoms after alcohol cessation can occur even in short-term drinkers or after drinking small amounts of alcohol.
The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be mild to severe and include nausea, vomiting, tremor, anxiety, sweating, itching, difficulty sleeping, and stomach upset.
Another feature of alcohol withdrawal is the increase in blood pressure and a racing pulse. The increase in blood pressure can be significant and may last a few days (usually 48-72 hours). In people who have normal pressure to begin with, this may not be of any consequence. However, in people who already have high blood pressure, the increase in blood pressure during alcohol withdrawal can be of concern. The systolic and diastolic blood pressure can go up by as much as 5-10 mmHg or even higher.
The problem with high blood pressure during withdrawal is that in some people there is a real risk of a heart attack or a stroke. Thus, it is highly recommended that the best way to stop alcohol is to taper it slowly over a period of several weeks.
Is High Blood Pressure Due To Alcohol Use Reversible?
People who drink alcohol rarely notice an increase in their blood pressure.
Although the resultant rise in systolic and diastolic blood pressure may vary from 2-5 mmHg, there are generally no symptoms arising from this. So the only way someone would know that their blood pressure had increased after drinking, would be if they were to measure it.
Obviously most people don’t even think of measuring their blood pressure, and as the pressure falls back to normal once the drinking has stopped, there’s no need to.
While the reversing of blood pressure after stopping drinking is good news, it is dependent on several factors.
If you’ve been drinking large amounts of alcohol for years and have damaged your heart or kidneys, then the high blood pressure in most cases will not reverse back to normal.
The blood pressure usually reverses as long as there is no damage to any organs of your body. Thus, for people who have mild or moderately high blood pressure due to alcohol consumption, it is highly recommended that they stop drinking as soon as they can.
Once the heart or kidney is damaged, medications will be required to lower the blood pressure.
How Long After Quitting Drinking Should Blood Pressure Decrease?
For regular drinkers who decide to quit drinking, the reversibility in their blood pressure is not immediate and depends on how long they have been drinking for.
Short term drinkers should experience a fall in their blood pressure after about 7-14 days.
For people who have been drinking for years, reducing blood pressure can take several weeks or even months, as long as no organ damage has occurred.
Eventually, most people develop normal blood pressure after 3-4 months, assuming of course they maintain a healthy lifestyle, exercise, and eat a healthy diet.