The consumption of alcoholic beverages is a very recurrent habit and the truth is that for years it has been socially accepted. Really everything has been said about alcohol consumption, it is said that when it is mild to moderate it is usually safe and it is also known that its excessive intake can increase the risk of metabolic conditions including the dreaded high blood pressure. Hypertension is a very common condition throughout the world and is known as a silent enemy. which is usually one of the main causes of cardiovascular disease. There are various triggers and lifestyle-focused habits that are associated with high blood pressure, one of the main ones is excessive alcohol consumption. Considering that beer is the most widely consumed alcoholic beverage by Americans, it is worth being clear about how this habit influences an increased risk of high blood pressure and various cardiovascular conditions.
Some general concepts about hypertension:
Blood pressure is the amount of pressure in the blood vessels. This measurement takes into account the systolic blood pressure and the diastolic blood pressure. Systolic pressure is the pressure within the arteries of the heart when the heart contracts, and diastolic pressure refers to the lowest pressure in the arteries when the heart relaxes between contractions. The unit of measurement for blood pressure is millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). It is expressed as systolic pressure over diastolic pressure.
For more context: a normal blood pressure is less than or equal to 120/80 mm Hg, and anything greater than or equal to 130/80 mm Hg is considered high.
How does drinking beer affect blood pressure?
In general, drinking alcohol affects blood pressure in more than one way, in the case of people who usually normalize their daily beer consumption, these are some of the main related complications.
– Alterations in the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system: Alcohol consumption affects the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS). RAAS is controlled by the kidneys and its function is to regulate blood pressure through three hormones: renin, angiotensin, and aldosterone. Alcohol increases blood levels of the hormone renin, which causes blood vessels to constrict. This means that they get smaller in diameter. Renin also decreases the amount of fluid the body removes in the form of urine. Therefore, this combination of higher levels of fluids in the body and smaller blood vessels increases blood pressure.
– Reduces vasopressin levels: Alcohol also reduces the amount of vasopressin the body makes. Vasopressin is an antidiuretic hormone. It causes the body to retain water, which generally limits the amount of urine the kidneys make. The action of suppressing this hormone exacerbates the diuretic effect and leads to dehydration.
– Increase in cortisol levels: Another potential mechanism is increased cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone that regulates the body’s response to stress. It also regulates metabolism, immune function, and inflammatory pathways. What happens with cortisol is that it increases the release of catecholamines, which are chemicals in the body that help regulate many processes and help the body function as it should. Higher levels of catecholamines cause the body to excrete less fluid through the urine. Having more fluids in the body directly increases blood pressure levels.
– Sensitivity of the baroreceptors: Alcohol also reduces the sensitivity of the baroreceptors. Baroreceptors are types of receptors present in the body that help regulate blood pressure. There are two different types of baroreceptors: high pressure baroreceptors and low pressure receptors. Both are activated when the blood vessels stretch. When blood pressure drops, these receptors help minimize how much blood vessels stretch to increase blood pressure. Similarly, when blood pressure increases, these receptors increase the stretching of blood vessel walls to lower blood pressure. Alcohol prevents the body’s baroreceptors from detecting the need to stretch blood vessels and increase their diameter, which causes an increase in blood pressure.
– Alterations in calcium levels in the blood: Drinking alcohol increases the amount of calcium that binds to the blood vessels. This increases the sensitivity of the blood vessels to the compounds that contract them. Constriction of blood vessels increases blood pressure.
How Much Alcohol is Too Much?
To begin with, it is important to be clear about some general concepts: the definition of a standard drink is a drink that contains 14 grams (0.6 fluid ounces [fl oz]) of pure alcohol. This amount can be presented in the following ways:
– 12 fl oz of regular beer containing 5% alcohol
– 5 fluid ounces of wine with 12% alcohol
– 1.5 fluid ounces of distilled spirits containing 40% alcohol
While these values are helpful, there is some variation in alcohol content. For example, some beers, especially craft beers, can contain about twice as much alcohol as commercial variants.
In addition, it is also important to understand the types of consumption as there are three main classifications. These are excessive alcohol consumption, binge eating, and moderate consumption. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, they are classified under the following parameters:
– Heavy / excessive alcohol consumption means that men consume more than four drinks on a given day, or more than 14 drinks per week, and women who consume more than three drinks on a given day, or more than seven drinks per week week.
– Binge drinking means that men consume five or more drinks in about 2 hours and women who consume four or more drinks in about 2 hours.
– Moderate consumption means that men consume two drinks or less a day and women one drink or less a day.
The truth is that every day there are more studies and references that support the close relationship between alcohol consumption and hypertension. Taking into account that some americans have a habit of drinking beer daily (more than three cans) worth taking action and make adjustments to prevent these dangerous cardiovascular diseases.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.