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Alcohol and Health

Alcohol and Blood Pressure: Everything You Need To Know

June 2, 2023
8 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
June 2, 2023
8 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
June 2, 2023
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
June 2, 2023
8 min read
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Reframe Content Team
June 2, 2023
8 min read

Just as a tightrope walker must carefully maintain their equilibrium to prevent a fall, our body’s blood pressure requires a delicate balance for optimal health. But have you ever considered how alcohol might impact your blood pressure? Understanding the relationship between these two factors can help us better manage our overall health.

A Tale of Two Numbers

Let's begin by examining what blood pressure actually is. An energetic little drummer, our hearts beat approximately 60 to 100 times per minute. This rhythmic pumping ensures that our blood delivers oxygen and nutrients to every part of our bodies and of all of its trillions of cells.

Blood pressure is the amount of pressure that your blood exerts on the artery walls as it circulates throughout the body, like water rushing through a hose and applying pressure against its walls. Similarly, when your heart contracts — the “thump” of the “thump-thump” — a wave of blood is sent into your arteries, causing pressure that can be gauged by a blood pressure machine.

Blood pressure is sometimes referred to as two digits, with 120/80 mm Hg considered the “perfect” reading. Systolic pressure, the first number, represents the pressure experienced when your heart beats. Diastolic pressure, the second number, indicates the pressure when your heart rests between beats. You might consider the two as your circulatory ocean’s “high tide” and “low tide.”

Your body, an ever-so-efficient machine, keeps your blood pressure in the “Goldilocks Zone” — neither too high nor too low, just what your body requires. The nervous system and the endocrine systems play a major role in controlling it. Adrenaline and other hormones generated during stressful situations, however, can raise blood pressure by quickening the heartbeat and constricting blood vessels. Too much pressure can cause hypertension, a condition that can overburden the heart and damage blood vessels, raising the risk of heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease.

Raising the Pressure

The relationship between alcohol and blood pressure isn't just hearsay — it's backed by science. Research has established that alcohol consumption can temporarily spike blood pressure.

Alcohol, as we all know, contains the chemical ethanol. When ethanol enters the body, it can cause the adrenal glands to release more cortisol and adrenaline. The more alcohol you drink, the more these hormones raise your blood pressure by quickening your heartbeat and constricting your blood vessels.

Alcohol raises blood pressure in other ways too. The first is related to the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS), which the kidneys control. The RAAS relies on three hormones to regulate blood pressure. One of these hormones, renin, is elevated by alcohol, which narrows blood vessels.

Another potentially harmful pathway involves cortisol, the “stress hormone”, which increases with alcohol consumption. Cortisol in turn increases our levels of the molecule catecholamine, raising blood pressure by reducing urine output and causing fluid retention. Baroreceptors, the compounds that are responsible for stretching our blood vessels, are similarly reduced in concentration by alcohol, resulting in constricted blood vessels and an increase in blood pressure.

The French Paradox

But isn’t red wine supposed to be good for your heart? Although red wine does contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, these are no different than those found in pomegranate or grape juice. The ethanol in wine outweighs its heart-friendly components.

As of 2023, numerous earlier studies that claimed moderate alcohol use has positive effects on cardiovascular health have been disproven because of design flaws. According to a recent study published in the journal Nutrients, moderate drinkers nonetheless saw a spike in blood pressure, which subsided after about 12 hours. Even while there was a stronger link between hypertension and alcohol use among people who drank more than two glasses per day, moderate drinkers didn't appear to fare any better than those who abstained from alcohol; at best, they were able to catch up once the alcohol had left their systems.

The Domino Effect

Chronic heavy drinking can have much worse effects. Excessive drinking over a long period can lead to severe hypertension, a leading cause of heart disease and stroke.

For habitual heavy drinkers, hypertension isn't the only concern. The habit can cause or exacerbate other health problems as well, such as liver disease and obesity, further raising blood pressure. Additionally, alcohol can interfere with blood pressure medications, reducing their effectiveness.

Healthy Choices

So, what can you do to maintain a healthy blood pressure? While the thought of completely quitting alcohol might seem daunting, if you have already tried to cut back or stop, focus on the health benefits you will experience as motivation. Be aware of how much you’re drinking, and try to pay attention to the physical sensations you experience as you do — listen to your body with an open mind.

A balanced diet can also do wonders for blood pressure. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins are all rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium, all of which help maintain a good blood pressure. But be sure to limit salty snacks — a high sodium intake can increase blood pressure!

Engaging in physical activity will help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce blood pressure. Finally, monitoring your blood pressure and having regular check-ups with your doctor will keep you informed of how your lifestyle choices and alcohol use impact your heart.

Staying in Balance With Reframe

Navigating the relationship between alcohol and blood pressure can seem like walking a tightrope, yet the balancing act is crucial for our health. By knowing the science behind this relationship and making educated decisions, we can enjoy watching our health improve. Remember, even the smallest step toward healthier habits counts — progress over perfection! Try to treat your body well, and it will return the favor.

If you’re ready to take your health to the next level and change (or end) your relationship with alcohol for good, then you’re in the right place. At Reframe, we take a compassionate, nonjudgmental approach to helping people unlock their full potential. From our neuroscience-based daily activities to our anonymous 24/7 Forum chat, we’ve got plenty of opportunities for you to start learning and changing for the better.

Plus, with monthly challenges, you’ll receive the support and accountability from other Reframers to build healthy, long-term habits. Our team is here to cheer you on and answer your questions every step of the way, too. So, take that first big step and unlock a healthier, more resilient you!

With 2.1 million downloads (and counting!), we’re slowly reframing what it means to be sober or sober-curious. Head to our app and begin your personalized journey today! We’re excited for you to join our incredible community!

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At Reframe, we do science, not stigma. We base our articles on the latest peer-reviewed research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science. We follow the Reframe Content Creation Guidelines, to ensure that we share accurate and actionable information with our readers. This aids them in making informed decisions on their wellness journey.
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