11 Aug How Alcohol Affects Blood Pressure
Does alcohol increase blood pressure? This question is common among alcohol addicts or patients prone to blood pressure. Drinking very low levels of alcohol may not cause adverse health effects. However, having repeated excessive alcohol can cause sustained high blood pressure.
Excessive alcohol consumption is an entirely preventable form of hypertension. This condition can increase the patient’s risk of heart attack and stroke when left untreated.
New Method Wellness aims to restore balance to our patients’ lives by optimizing their healing and minimizing relapse. Our holistic treatment methods are tailored to each patient’s needs by treating the mind, body, and spirit.
What is Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is best described as the pressure in the patient’s blood vessels. It is measured in two numbers, which are systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure. These two measurements represent the two different pressures of blood in the body.
Systolic blood pressure occurs within the arteries near the heart as it contracts. Diastolic blood pressure is the lowest pressure within the arteries near the heart as it relaxes between contractions. It is in the form of 120/80 mm Hg, with mm Hg representing millimeters of mercury. In this example, 120 represents systolic pressure, while 80 represents diastolic blood pressure.
Any reading less than or equal to 120/80 mm Hg represents normal blood pressure. Having a 130/80 mm Hg reading or greater is considered high and may be life-threatening.
Does Alcohol Increase Blood Pressure?
Consuming alcohol at very low levels does not increase blood pressure. If anything, it may lower blood pressure slightly. But as the patient consumes more alcohol, blood pressure rises. Many factors work together to raise blood pressure, but the long-term effects of alcohol can be life-threatening.
This segment highlights different ways alcohol consumption can indirectly affect blood pressure.
1. Changes in Pressure Receptors
Alcohol dulls the sensitivity of baroreceptors by preventing them from making the necessary blood pressure adjustments. As such, the baroreceptors in the blood will not be as aware of blood flow as they would under normal circumstances.
2. Increased Calcium Levels
Alcohol consumption also increases calcium production in the addict’s arterial muscles. The excess calcium levels can bind to blood vessels, increasing the amount of cortisol and constricting blood flow, which increases blood pressure.
3. Increased Cortisol
Alcohol may also increase cortisol levels in the patient’s system. Cortisol is a stress hormone that regulates stress levels in the body. This is done by dampening bodily functions not essential to live in fight-of-flight situations. It stimulates the release of catecholamines that causes the body to retain more fluids through urine, directly increasing blood pressure levels.
4. Increase Vasoconstrictor Hormones
Alcohol interacts with many hormones that cause arteries to constrict, effectively increasing blood pressure levels. At even higher levels, alcohol becomes a vasoconstrictor and shrinks blood vessels, exacerbating conditions like migraine headaches and frostbite.
5. Changes in the Nervous System
Alcohol directly affects the central nervous system when consumed, with the main result being the unbalanced release of hormones. The body uses hormones to regulate and control responses to different stimuli. The unnatural stimulation of these hormones because of unstable reactions may result in hypertension.
For example, alcohol may increase the body’s renin production (a hormone that causes blood vessels to constrict). Renin constricts blood vessels, making blood flow more difficult.
Studies suggest that no single factor increases a patient’s blood pressure levels from alcohol consumption. However, a combination of factors may increase blood pressure and expose the person to life-threatening health conditions.
How Much Alcohol is Too Much?
It depends more on how much alcohol and how often the patient drinks. Several studies suggest that low alcohol consumption (1 glass) may not affect blood pressure in the short term. However, binge drinking (5 or more drinks) within two hours may cause a blood pressure spike.
Alcohol may also lower blood pressure in some addicts in the short term. However, this effect is always temporary and results from releasing substances like nitric oxide that cause blood vessels to widen. This effect does not stick around for long (about 13 hours after the last drink) and may raise blood pressure. This is especially true if the patient consumes large amounts of alcohol.
Long-term, heavy, and regular alcohol drinking can result in chronic high blood pressure. This means blood pressure does not return to normal between drinking episodes. The high caloric nature and sugar contents of alcohol may also result in weight gain and diabetes. Both of these conditions go hand-in-hand with high blood pressure.
Symptoms of High Blood Pressure
Patients almost certainly never realize high blood pressure warning signs or symptoms. Many people do not always know they have high blood pressure until after the condition has progressed. Measuring blood pressure is the most effective way of knowing blood pressure levels.
It may take several years for the condition to reach severe levels, making its symptoms more noticeable.
Common symptoms of severe hypertension may include:
- • Headache
- • Dizziness
- • Vomiting
- • Nausea
- • Blurred or double vision
- • Breathlessness
- • Flushing
- • Nosebleeds
- • Heart palpitations
- • Blood spots in the eyes
These symptoms are also common with other health problems and may not immediately show as symptoms of high blood pressure. New Method Wellness suggests that anybody who experiences the symptoms above should seek immediate medical attention.
Effects of Alcohol on Blood Pressure Medications
Patients already taking blood pressure medications should be especially mindful of their alcohol intake. This is because of how alcohol may interact with blood pressure medication.
Many blood pressure medications tend to lower blood pressure (hypotension) which may result in dizziness. This side effect is more expressive when the patient goes from sitting or lying to a standing position (orthostatic hypotension.) This side effect and other blood pressure issues caused by alcohol may put the patient at a higher risk of falls.
Some blood pressure medications also have a higher risk of interacting negatively with alcohol than others.
These medications include:
- • Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and Angiotensin II receptor blockers
- • Alpha-blockers
- • Beta-blockers
- • Nitrates
Our team at New Method Wellness advises patients to seek expert advice to understand if they can take alcohol with these blood pressure medications. It is not a good idea to change a medication schedule without talking to a professional first.
New Method Wellness Can Help
Our range of alcohol treatment programs provides patients with a holistic approach to treatment. We focus on getting to the root of the addiction and using our extensive knowledge to identify any dual diagnoses. Our team creates a treatment approach tailored to each patient’s needs.
Here are some of the services we provide:
- Inpatient and outpatient programs, including alcohol detox, residential facilities, inpatient rehab, and long-term outpatient support
- Programs that support long-term success by identifying triggers and helping patients to build effective coping strategies to prevent relapse
- Wide range of research-backed therapies, including equine-assisted therapy, group therapy, family therapy, nutritional guidance, massage therapy, and so much more
- Ongoing support that provides patients with additional support after completing their programs
Get Help for Alcohol Addiction
New Method Wellness offers a holistic approach to care for patients with high blood pressure and alcohol addiction. Our whole-person focus is vital for addressing many facets of alcohol addiction and its effects on blood pressure.