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 established 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 causes blood pressure to raise in chronic consumers of the drug. 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. These persons were shown in studies to take on excess of three drinks per day.

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

Studies have also further shown that consumption of alcohol by people with normal blood pressure range also results in blood pressure elevation when the subjects consume 3 to 8 alcoholic beverages per day.

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 an association between alcohol and high blood pressure in the context of chronic alcohol consumption.

How alcohol actually leads to high blood pressure lies in nerve damage and damage to 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 in 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 raise and fall according to body functions and physical activity for example when running or jogging.Damage to cardiovascular nerves caused by excessive alcohol consumption may also cause blood pressure to suddenly sharply fall giving low blood pressure readings on standing when sited causing dizziness or fainting.

Alcohol and high blood pressure association is also plagued with medical controversy in some circles just as has happened to caffeine and blood pressure association. Some medical doctors believe that instead of the damage to nerves being caused by ethanol in alcohol, it is actually as a result of bad nutritional habits associated with chronic alcohol abuse. However some studies of the link between alcohol and high blood pressure done in 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 are amount consumed, timing of consumption, history of consumption, genetics, and physical status and gender of the person drinking the alcohol. Alcohol has been found medically useful yet to an extent in particular individuals especially those of good health with no history of alcoholism or cardiovascular disease, drinking small to moderate amounts.

Another perspective on the link between alcohol and high blood pressure is in the context of the heart itself. 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 low cardiac output and enlargement of the heart and its chambers.

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

High blood pressure patients who continue to drink alcohol whilst on hypertension treatment will also defeat the purpose of high blood pressure medications. Whilst the area is still open to further study, alcohol 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. 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 contraindicated.

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