How does alcohol affect high blood pressure?High blood pressure or hypertension is an increased pressure of the blood on the inner walls of the arteries (blood vessels). High blood pressure has been associated with a high intake of alcohol. Lowering alcohol intake may help lower high blood pressure.
It is not known exactly how alcohol raises the blood pressure, although there are many possible ways. It may be due to an effect of alcohol on the kidneys, which play a role in regulating blood pressure. Also see Low Blood Pressure.
Alcohol stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, which regulates the heart rate and blood vessel activity. It also has a direct effect on the tissue lining the heart and blood vessels (endothelium).
Chronic alcohol intake may also lead to insulin resistance, which in turn may trigger hypertension. It is known that the effect of alcohol on blood pressure is dose-dependent - that is, the higher the alcohol intake, the greater the increase in blood pressure.
How much alcohol is too much?A moderate level of alcohol is no more than four standard drinks per day for men and two for women. It is recommended that people with hypertension limit their alcohol intake to no more than 2 standard drinks per day for men, and one for women. Alcohol interferes with blood pressure medication. Anyone taking blood pressure medication should avoid alcohol altogether.A standard drink contains 10 grams of alcohol. This is equivalent to:
- 425 ml (a schooner) of lite/low alcohol beer.
- 285 ml (a middie) of standard beer.
- 100 ml (a glass) of wine.
- 60 ml (a double nip) of 20% proof fortified wines (sherry, port).
- 30 ml (a nip) of 40% proof spirits/liqueurs (scotch, rum, vodka etc).Tips for reducing alcohol intake.
- Have at least two alcohol-free days per week.
- Alternate alcoholic drinks with soft drinks or water.
- Use smaller measures of alcohol and top up with plenty of ice or mixers (soda, mineral water, soft drink etc).
- Put your glass down between sips.
- Do not allow anyone to top up your drink until it is completely finished.
- Try switching to low-alcohol or alcohol-free wines.
- Confide in a friend and ask them to encourage you to drink less.
TREATMENT OPTIONSThe National Health and Medical Research Council in Australia recommends fewer than 4 standard drinks per day for men and 2 standard drinks per day for women, as responsible levels of drinking.
It is suggested that men and women with high blood pressure, however, limit their alcohol intake to no more than 2 standard drinks per day. Alcohol is known to interfere with blood pressure medication. Anyone on blood pressure medication should avoid alcohol altogether.
PHARMACIST'S ADVICEAsk your Pharmacist for advice.
1) Keep alcohol intake to within recommended limits. If you have difficulty reducing your alcohol intake, ask your Doctor or Pharmacist for help.
2) Have your blood pressure checked yearly, or more often if you already have hypertension. Consider a blood pressure monitor for home use.
3) Smoking, obesity and high cholesterol also contribute to Hypertension. Ask your pharmacist for advice if you have any of these problems.
4) Ask your pharmacist if any of your medications have interactions with alcohol or other medications.
5) See the hypertension diet or alcoholism Diet for advice.
6) Exercise regularly and keep to a healthy weight. Remember to check with your doctor before undertaking any exercise programme.
7) See the Heart Disease topic for further information about reducing your risks.