The ONE organ responsible for high blood pressure.
What to Know About Alcohol and Its Effects to Blood Pressure
Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure to unhealthy levels. Having more than three drinks in one sitting temporarily raises blood pressure. Repeated binge drinking can lead to long-term increases in blood pressure.
Can excess alcohol affect your blood pressure? Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure. If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure (HBP or hypertension), your doctor may advise you to reduce the amount of alcohol you drink.
Alcoholic beverages are very popular. Light-to-moderate alcohol consumption is typically safe, but excessive alcohol consumption can increase the risk of several metabolic conditions, including high blood pressure.
What is blood pressure?Blood pressure is the amount of pressure in the blood vessels. This measurement takes into account the systolic blood pressure and the diastolic blood pressure. Systolic pressure is the pressure within the arteries of the heart when the heart contracts, and diastolic pressure refers to the lowest pressure in the arteries when the heart is relaxing between contractions. The unit of measurement for blood pressure is millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). It is expressed as systolic pressure over diastolic pressure. A normal blood pressure is less than or equal to 120/80 mm Hg, and anything greater than or equal to 130/80 mm Hg is considered high.
Drinking alcohol affects blood pressure in more than one way. The following sections will look at some of these ways in more detail.
The renin-angiotensin-aldosterone systemConsuming alcohol affects the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS)Trusted Source. The RAAS is controlled by the kidneys, and its function is to regulate blood pressure through three hormones: renin, angiotensin, and aldosterone. Alcohol increases blood levels of the hormone renin, which causes the blood vessels to constrict. This means that they get smaller in diameter. Renin also decreases how much fluid the body eliminates as urine. This combination of higher fluid levels in the body and smaller blood vessels increases blood pressure.
Vasopressin levelsAlcohol also reduces how much vasopressin the body makes. Vasopressin is an antidiuretic hormone. It causes the body to hold onto water, which typically limits how much urine the kidneys make. The action of suppressing this hormone exacerbates the diuretic effect and leads to dehydration.
Cortisol levelsAnother potential mechanism is the increase in cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone that regulates the body’s response to stress. It also regulates metabolism, immune function, and inflammatory pathways. Cortisol increases the release of catecholamines , which are chemicals in the body that help regulate many processes and help keep the body functioning as it should. Having higher levels of catecholamines causes the body to excrete less fluid through urine. Having more fluids in the body directly increases blood pressure levels.
Baroreceptor sensitivityAlcohol also decreases baroreceptor sensitivity. Baroreceptors are types of receptors present in the body that help regulate blood pressure. There are two different types of baroreceptors: high pressure baroreceptors and low pressure receptors. Both of these activate when the blood vessels stretch. When blood pressure decreases, these receptors help minimize how much the blood vessels stretch to increase blood pressure. Similarly, when blood pressure increases, these receptors increase the stretching of the blood vessel walls in order to decrease blood pressure. Alcohol prevents the body’s baroreceptors from detecting a need to stretch the blood vessels and increase their diameter, causing an increase in blood pressure.
Blood calcium levelsAlcohol consumption increases the amount of calcium that binds to the blood vessels. This increases the sensitivity of the blood vessels to compounds that constrict them. Constricting the blood vessels increases blood pressure.
What is the definition of a standard drink?The definition of a standard drink is a beverage containing 14 grams (0.6 fluid ounces [fl oz]) of pure alcohol. This amount is present in:
- 12 fl oz of regular beer containing 5% alcohol
- 5 fl oz of wine containing 12% alcohol
- 1.5 fl oz of distilled spirits containing 40% alcohol
Blood pressure and types of drinkingThere are three main classifications of drinking. These are heavy drinking, moderate drinking, and binge drinking. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
- Heavy alcohol use means men consuming more than four drinks on any given day, or more than 14 drinks per week, and women consuming more than three drinks on any given day, or more than seven drinks per week.
- Binge drinking means men consuming five or more drinks in about 2 hours and women consuming four or more drinks in about 2 hours.
- Moderate drinking means men consuming two drinks or fewer per day and women consuming one drink or fewer per day.
Other risks of alcohol useAlcohol increases the risk of several other short- and long-term health issues. Some short-term risks include:
- alcohol poisoning
- engaging in risky sexual behaviors, such as having sex without using a condom
- bodily injury
- irregular breathing
- memory issues
- slurred speech
- liver disease and liver failure
- mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety
- alcohol addiction
- a weakened immune system
- cardiovascular diseases, such as stroke or an irregular heartbeat
- weight gain
- decreased bone density
- higher blood sugar levels
Completely refraining from consuming alcohol lowers the risk of some of the health risks listed above. Although some of those effects can occur without alcohol consumption, avoiding alcohol helps decrease the risks. Individuals who drink alcohol in excess can help improve their overall health by stopping drinking. For some people, this can be an easy process. However, people who are dependent on alcohol or have been misusing alcohol for a long period of time may have difficulty quitting. Some of the symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal include:
- a fast heart rate
- weight loss
- more energy
- better sleep
- a lower risk of various conditions
SummaryConsuming alcohol can increase the risk of high blood pressure and other metabolic conditions in several ways. For example, alcohol can affect calcium levels, cortisol levels, and baroreceptor sensitivity, all of which can lead to increases in blood pressure. To prevent various health complications, including high blood pressure, people should try to limit their alcohol consumption to one or two glasses infrequently. If a person has concerns that they or someone they know might have a dependency on alcohol, they should seek professional advice and support as soon as they can.
Abstract—Several studies have shown that cessation of alcohol drinking reduces blood pressure (BP).