Drinking alcohol regularly for a long period of time increases your risk of high blood pressure. In addition, alcohol can make you put on weight due to the amount of calories it contains. Being overweight also increases your risk of high blood pressure.
High blood pressure affects one in three adults in the UK.
Research has shown, that heavy drinking increases the risk of high blood pressure for both women and men. Cutting down on alcohol can help to reduce your risk of getting high blood pressure.
High blood pressure rarely causes obvious symptoms, which means that it often goes untreated. Left untreated, high blood pressure is dangerous. Hypertension attributed to alcohol is the most common cause of hospital admissions related to alcohol.
High blood pressure means that your heart has to work harder to pump blood around your body. Hypertension is the medical term for having persistently high blood pressure. It is a major cause of heart attack, stroke, vascular dementia, and chronic kidney disease.
How much alcohol is safe for hypertension patients?
The government currently recommends that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption. Men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units per week. One unit is equal to 10ml of pure alcohol.
Having just one drink a day can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure. Drinking more than three alcoholic drinks a day increases your chances of eventually developing hypertension by up to 70%.
It doesn’t matter if you drink every day or regularly drink lots of alcohol in one go - the basic rule of thumb is that the more you drink in total, the higher your risk of developing hypertension.
Depending on the amount of alcohol that is regularly consumed, and a person’s current blood pressure levels, blood pressure can be reduced to varying degrees by cutting down on or cutting out alcohol.
Although there are other risk factors that also cause high blood pressure, cutting down on the amount of alcohol that you drink helps to lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of developing hypertension.
Can alcohol withdrawal cause hypertension?
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) can cause a number of symptoms, one of which is temporary high blood pressure. Symptoms of AWS can last from a few days to a number of weeks. It is not definitively known if alcohol withdrawal is the sole reason for high blood pressure in all AWS patients.
Studies have also shown that cutting out alcohol significantly reduces blood pressure levels. One study on hypertensive heavy drinkers concluded that: “Hypertension is rapidly reversible in the majority of heavy drinkers after the withdrawal of alcohol consumption”.
Reducing the amount of alcohol that you drink improves your overall health and reduces your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, having a heart attack, or suffering a stroke.
Can you drink alcohol when you are taking high blood pressure medication?
There are several types of high blood pressure medicines. Each of them lowers your blood pressure in a different way. High blood pressure medications include:
- ACE inhibitors - these help to control the hormones that affect blood pressure.
- Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) - these work on hormones in the same way as ACE inhibitors.
- Thiazide diuretics- these get rid of excess fluid in the body.
- Calcium channel blockers - these medicines have the effect of relaxing the artery walls to expand the arteries, thereby lowering blood pressure.
Most people need to take a combination of blood pressure medicines to ensure that their high blood pressure is controlled as much as possible.
It is not recommended to mix high blood pressure medications with drinking too much alcohol as it can have an effect on how well they treat your condition.
While you can drink a small amount of alcohol with some blood pressure medication, some medicines for high blood pressure can cause dizziness or drowsiness. Drinking alcohol can increase these effects, which is why it’s not recommended to drink alcohol while taking them.
Always read the patient leaflet which comes with your medication and ask your doctor if you are unsure as to whether you can drink alcohol while taking it.
Alcohol and beta blockers
It is not recommended to drink alcohol if you’re taking beta-blockers. In combination, beta blockers and alcohol can make your blood pressure drop too low, which can be dangerous.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle which includes consuming less alcohol is an effective way to reduce high blood pressure levels.