Alcohol and High Blood Pressure: Are They Related?


Indians are drinking more these days. Whether the cause is revelry, social norm, stress or addiction, the average Indian is drinking 5.7 litres of alcohol per year, according to the World Health Organization. Around 3 million people died in 2016 due to alcohol-related problems. Alcohol causes numerous health issues, such as liver disease, pancreatitis, cancer, digestive issues, brain damage, and cardiovascular problems.

High Blood Pressure

Most people are unaware that alcohol causes your blood pressure (BP) to rise immediately. More than 3 drinks per session can cause your BP to rise rapidly. This becomes normal again once your liver eliminates the alcohol from your body. Long-term heavy drinking can cause chronic high blood pressure or hypertension. Read on to know more about how alcohol and high BP are related and how to prevent high BP.

What is Blood Pressure?

The heart beats to pump blood that circulates to all parts of the body through arteries to supply oxygen and energy that our cells require. The blood flows because of pressure that pushes against the arterial walls. Blood pressure is a measurement of this pushing, coupled with the resistance from the arterial walls.

Doctors measure BP with two numbers. These are called diastolic and systolic pressure. When your heart beats, the measure of your BP is known as systolic BP. When we measure the BP at the pause between 2 heartbeats, it is called diastolic BP.  It is expressed as systolic/diastolic millimetres of mercury, written as mmHg. An average human’s normal blood pressure should be less than 120/80 mmHg. The blood pressures of at-risk and high BP people are as follows:

  • People at risk of developing high BP – systolic: 121-139 mmHg / diastolic: 81-89 mmHg.
  • People with hypertension (or high BP) – systolic: 140 mmHg or more / diastolic: 90 mmHg or more.

How does Alcohol Affect Blood Pressure?

Alcohol affects blood pressure in the following ways:

  • Vasoconstriction: Vasoconstriction means the narrowing or constriction of blood vessels. Alcohol stimulates the release of bio-chemicals in our body that cause the blood vessels to tighten and narrow. This forces the heart to pump harder so that the blood can circulate to all the cells, resulting in high blood pressure.
  • Affects the Central Nervous System: Alcohol affects the central nervous system and causes the body to release adrenaline. The adrenaline increases our heart rate and also the systolic blood pressure.
  • Calories: Alcohol is nothing but empty calories and sugar. Over time, it causes the accumulation of excess body fat that leads to a higher risk of hypertension.
  • Fats: Alcohol causes an increase in the quantities of fats in the bloodstream. This can damage the walls of our arteries and make them hard. This leads to high blood pressure as the hardened arterial walls offer greater resistance to the blood flowing through them.
  • Blood Clots: When the arteries get hardened, it increases the risk of blood clot formation. If these blood clots get lodged in the artery and block the circulation of blood, it can cause high blood pressure and also a heart attack or stroke.

How to Prevent and Treat Hypertension?

Prevention is the best thing as having a healthy lifestyle, eating nutritious food, and exercising regularly can help you prevent hypertension. Avoiding alcohol, drugs, and smoking will also help you prevent high BP and heart problems. Things like stress, unhealthy food habits, and excessive drinking can cause hypertension in the long run.

  • Your blood pressure increases by 1mmHg for every 10 grams of alcohol you drink. So, avoid alcohol completely or reduce alcohol consumption and drink in moderation.
  • Moderate drinking can be described as 2 drinks a day for men who are younger than 65, and 1 drink a day for women of all ages and men older than 65.
  • One drink is measured as 350ml of beer, 150 ml of wine or 44 ml of distilled liquor.

Hypertension can be treated with medication. However, this has to be in combination with a healthy diet and regular exercise. You can also try stress- relaxation techniques like yoga and deep-breathing exercises. Long-term health effects of hypertension include kidney damage and dementia due to damaged blood vessels in the kidney and brain.

Diagnosis and Lab Tests:

Hypertension is a silent killer. It has no visible symptoms and can only be diagnosed by measuring your blood pressure using a sphygmomanometer, also called a BP monitor or gauge. Extremely high BP has symptoms such as:

  • Pounding in your neck, ears, and chest
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Blood in the urine
  • Problems with vision
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Irregular heart rate

If you consume alcohol regularly, smoke, or are obese and experience any of the above symptoms, you need to get checked for signs of cardiovascular diseases. You can book an appointment for affordable cardiac health check-up packages through Medlife Labs now, or you can call 7022000900 to schedule a free home sample collection. You can also schedule appointments for an annual or bi-annual general health check-up package. It is super-convenient as Medlife offers sample collection from the comfort of your home! You can also consult a cardiologist who will guide you further.

Getting regular health check-ups can go a long way in preventing dangerous health problems like high blood pressure and heart diseases. Cutting down on alcohol will also improve your heart health and blood pressure almost immediately.


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