Alcohol and High Blood Pressure Overview

Covering link between alcohol and high blood pressure and the effects of alcohol on high blood pressure medications

The link between alcohol and hypertension has been confirmed by countless epidemiological studies. These have been studies involving different groups of people male and female and their different alcohol consumption behaviors over a period of time.

Alcohol has been shown to cause blood pressure to increase in chronic consumers of the beverage. Ultimately, alcohol which contains ethanol causes chronic high blood pressure in chronic alcohol users. The link between alcohol and high blood pressure has particularly been observed in both men and women who consume in excess of two drinks per day. The affected individuals were shown in studies to take in excess of three alcoholic drinks per day.

Research on excess alcohol consumption and its impact on blood pressure done in the mid 90s indicates that women may be less susceptible than men to alcohol induced high blood pressure. In 1984,  research involving 16 male high blood pressure patients, subjected them to 4 days of alcohol withdrawal. The men were denied access to their regular average 4 pints of beer per day. Amazingly, their average blood pressure dropped significantly.

Further, studies have also shown that consumption of alcohol by individuals within the normal blood pressure range results in blood pressure elevation when the subjects consume 3 to 8 alcoholic beverages per day. This supports the idea that excessive alcohol consumption has an effect on blood pressure.

Effects of alcohol on high blood pressure

Looking from a medical perspective, it is apparent that only a certain amount of alcohol consumption per day posses high blood pressure risk in both male and female drinkers. For this reason doctors place a cause and effect relationship between alcohol and high blood pressure were there is chronic alcohol consumption. This is to say a certain amount of alcohol must be consumed to result in any negative effect on blood pressure.

The question maybe asked how exactly alcohol leads to high blood pressure. Well, the damage  is found in understanding the effect of alcohol on nerves and other important functions of the heart. The heart and nerves form part of an intricate and delicate cardiovascular system which is directly in charge of blood circulation. The link between alcohol and high blood pressure is illustrated by the fact that damage to cardiovascular nerves interferes with the body's natural ability to adjust blood pressure and heart rate.

The heart rate is meant to increase and decrease according to body functions and physical activity. This happens, for example, when you are running or jogging. Damage to cardiovascular nerves caused by excessive alcohol consumption may also cause blood pressure to suddenly and sharply fall giving low blood pressure readings on standing and when seated resulting in dizziness or even fainting.

The link between alcohol and high blood pressure is not free free disagreements. It also plagued with medical controversy in some circles just as has happened to thoughts and studies around caffeine and blood pressure association. Some medical doctors believe that instead of the damage to nerves being caused by ethanol in alcohol, as some believe, it is actually as a result of bad nutritional habits associated with chronic alcohol abuse. These doctors argue that people who abuse alcohol tend to neglect their diet leading to damage. Regardless, some studies on the link between alcohol and high blood pressure performed on animals do prove that alcohol actually damages the nerves.

The precise effects of alcohol on blood pressure and the cardiovascular system in general will depend on a number of factors. These factors include the amount of alcohol consumed, timing of consumption, history of consumption, genetics, and physical status and gender of the person drinking the alcohol.

Interestingly, alcohol has been found to be medically useful, yet to an extent, in particular individuals especially those of good health with no history of alcoholism or cardiovascular disease, who drinking small to moderate amounts.

Another perspective on the link between alcohol and high blood pressure is in the context of the heart itself. You may want to know that the heart works by listening to electrical and chemical signals that causes it to pump blood into the arteries in correct measure and rate.

For instance when a person is put to flight for fright, the brain sends electrical signals so does the body also send chemical signals directing heart rate in order to supply adequate amounts of oxygen across the body.

Alcohol has the ability to influence or at least interfere with this electrical and chemical signaling which regulates the function of the heart modifying the efficacy and efficiency of the heart. Heavy ethanol consumption leads to low cardiac output and enlargement of the heart and its chambers. This is not a good thing.

The following puts in summary form the link between alcohol and high blood pressure in the context of the actual mechanisms that leads to high blood pressure in chronic alcohol drinkers;

  • Increased activity of the sympathetic nervous system - this is a nervous system that has a key role to play in cardiovascular regulation. It constricts blood vessels and also increases the contractile force of the heart thus raising blood pressure.
  • Increased plasma levels - this specifically refers to plasma levels of compounds involved in transmitting impulses from nerves to muscles. They help maintain blood pressure and will cause blood pressure elevation if present in excess.
  • Decreased sensitivity of the baroreceptors - Located in artery walls, baroreceptors stretch as a result of a rise in blood pressure sending signals to the central nervous system . In turn the central nervous system sends a message to the circulatory system to reduce blood pressure towards normal. The link between alcohol and blood pressure in this particular case is that alcohol affects sensitivity of the baroreceptors possibly failing to send signal to reduce blood pressure

Link between alcohol and blood pressure medications

We end this article by quickly considering the link between alcohol and blood pressure medications. High blood pressure patients who continue to drink alcohol whilst on hypertension treatment defeat the purpose of high blood pressure medications. Whilst this area is still open to further study, it is believed that alcohol negatively interacts with hypertension medications such as propranolol, a Beta-Blocker, and clonidine, a Centrally-Acting Alpha Adrenergic.

Alcohol has been found to enhance the removal of propranolol and opposes the effect of clonidine.

Furthermore, alcohol diminishes the blood pressure lowering properties of the anti-hypertensive medications. Alcohol consumption also decreases the concentration of magnesium in the blood. Diuretics for high blood pressure and other medications that increase kidney excretion of electrolytes and water to control blood pressure may be contraindicate due to the use of alcohol.

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