Alcohol can play a distinct role in increasing your blood pressure. You can keep your risk low by following the government’s guidelines on how to drink responsibly and safely. Given the lack of warning signs, high blood pressure often goes undetected if not regularly checked, making it often characterised as a silent killer. It’s important to have regular check-ups with your local GP who can better make appropriate recommendations regarding drinking and other lifestyle suggestions.
What is High Blood Pressure?
When your heart beats, it pumps blood around your body to ensure your body has all the energy and oxygen it needs. Pressure is needed to make the blood circulate. The pressure pushes against the walls of your arteries. When someone takes your blood pressure, they are measuring the strength of this pressure combined with the resistance from the artery walls.
A normal heart pumps blood around the body with ease and at reasonably low pressure. High blood pressure means that your heart is working a bit harder to pump blood around your body. High blood pressure puts a strain on your arteries and your heart. This strain increases your risk of having a heart attack, a stroke, or suffering from kidney disease.
What Causes High Blood Pressure?
There are a number of factors that can contribute to high blood pressure. Genetics and family history increases your risk of hypertension, also known as high blood pressure. Lifestyle and behavioural problems can also be key contributors.
Other factors include:
- Unhealthy diet
- Being overweight
- Low physical activities
- Smoking, and other forms of substance abuse
- Overconsumption of salt
- Regular alcohol use
Does Alcohol Raise Blood Pressure?
The short answer is yes. Alcohol is high in calories and sugar which attributes to the rise in blood pressure by consuming a single alcoholic drink. Continued alcohol use typically creates a more sustained rise in blood pressure depending on a variety of factors. These factors include your alcohol consumption, genetics, pre-existing conditions; to name a few.
Alcohol-related increases in body weight, potentially leading to obesity, can further elevate the risk of high blood pressure on a long-term basis. Scientists have found that binge drinking increased the development of atherosclerosis known as the hardening and narrowing of arteries, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
How Does Alcohol Affect Blood Pressure?
Consuming a single alcoholic drink usually leads to an acute rise in blood pressure which typically resolves within two hours. The regular consumption of alcohol elevates blood pressure and puts you at greater risk for high blood pressure or hypertension. This increase in blood pressure occurs irrespective of the type of alcoholic beverage you drink. Binge drinking and heavy drinking also increase the risk of hypertension because you’re consuming vast amounts of alcohol in a shorter period of time.
There are also various ways in which alcohol is known to indirectly impact your blood pressure. These include:
Changes in the nervous system: Although it’s not inherently clear how alcohol’s effect on the nervous system can impact a person’s blood pressure, it is known to affect the nervous system, which plays a key role in regulating blood pressure.
Impact on pressure receptors: The baroreceptors are responsible for adjusting blood pressure levels when necessary. Drinking alcohol can affect these receptors causing blood pressure to rise.
Increased cortisol: Cortisol is the stress hormone that causes blood pressure to rise. Alcohol instantly increases the amount of cortisol present in your body, therefore increasing blood pressure.
Increased calcium levels: Alcohol increases the body’s calcium levels, specifically in the muscles that line arteries. This causes arteries to become more constricted, leading to elevated blood pressure.
Increase in vasoconstrictor hormones: Alcohol has been found to interact with the hormones in your body which cause your arteries to constrict. This results in increased blood pressure by constricting arteries and retaining fluid filtered in the kidneys.
Weight gain: Being overweight is known to increase blood pressure. Many alcoholic drinks contain lead to weight gain over the long term, further increasing blood pressure.
To better prevent high blood pressure, it’s suggested that you limit your alcohol intake to no more than two drinks per day for men and no more than one drink per day for women. If your blood pressure is particularly high due to alcohol intake, this can be reversed with 2-4 weeks of abstinence or a substantial reduction in alcohol intake.
Effects of High Blood Pressure
The effects of high blood pressure are typically linked to a major cause of stroke and heart attack, both serious, life-threatening medical conditions. Many of the people who have high blood pressure won’t notice any signs or symptoms, even if their blood pressure readings seem dangerously high.
You may, however, experience the following:
- Shortness of breath
It’s important to note that these symptoms aren’t specific and usually occur if blood pressure has reached a severe or life-threatening stage.
There is no one drinking rule that will apply to everyone. Whilst alcohol can raise your blood pressure, whether this is or should be a concern for you will be completely unique to you and what is going on in your life. This will include things such as your diet, age, genetics, family history, lifestyle, and so on.
How is Alcohol Addiction Treated at CATCH?
Addiction treatment is available on an inpatient or outpatient basis. Your decision will ultimately be based upon your individual needs and circumstances. While residential rehab is considered to be the most effective form of treatment for alcohol addiction, clinics like CATCH Recovery offer exceptional outpatient addiction treatment.
Effective treatment for any addiction consists of a medical detox where necessary. Alcohol withdrawal can be extremely agonising, so a medically supervised detox is always recommended where opioids like alcohol are concerned. Detox should then be followed by and is then followed by an intensive course of therapy.
While detox is an important part of overcoming physical dependency, treating the psychological aspects of addiction will provide you with the tools you need to maintain long-term sobriety. Psychological dependence is the term used to describe the emotional and mental components of substance use disorder. This is usually characterised by strong cravings for a particular substance or behaviour and the inability to function without it.
CATCH Recovery uses evidence-based treatments such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Dialectic Behavioural Therapy (DBT) grief and trauma therapy, one-to-one counselling sessions, group therapy and online therapy. We also teach relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation which can help with managing stressful situations, in addition to withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia.
Whether it’s residential rehab or intensive outpatient therapy, finishing a programme can also feel daunting. You may feel overwhelmed without the structure and safety you’ve become accustomed to. With this in mind, we have created an exceptional aftercare programme designed to prevent relapse and help you deal with the stressors of everyday life.
When to Seek Help for Alcohol Addiction
If you’re concerned about your health or require medical advice it’s always best to consult your GP and have regular check-ups to be aware of what your specific needs are. A GP will be able to advise on steps you should or shouldn’t be taking in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This will include advice on drinking based on your blood pressure.
However, if you believe you may be drinking to excess and have developed an addiction to alcohol, contact our admissions team for a free addiction assessment. CATCH Recovery is a rehab clinic in South East England, providing treatment to those wishing to begin their journey to sobriety. Our staff will be happy to talk you through the type of treatment we offer, and help you find an alternative clinic should you be unable to travel to London.