Alcohol, Smoking and High Blood Pressure


There are various reasons for increased blood pressure. Two of the most significant factors to high blood pressure levels are smoking and drinking. Although smoking is closely related to cancer, smoking is also one of the main causes of elevated blood pressure levels. Smoking increases blood pressure by five to ten millimeters a day. Although smoking does not necessarily cause high blood pressure, a smoker who has high blood pressure will be negatively affected by his or her blood pressure levels through cigarette smoke. Smoking accelerates the build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries. Smoke inhalation fills the arteries with chemicals from the cigarettes. These chemicals in turn convert into fatty deposits that stick to the arterial walls. This is known as artherosclerosis. When the arteries are clogged, the heart works harder to pump blood to the rest of the body, placing strain on the heart muscles and increasing blood pressure. This is why there is a strong correlation between smoking and high blood pressure.

Alcohol and High Blood Pressure

Too much alcohol consumption is another factor that can raise blood pressure to unhealthy levels. More than three consecutive drinks can increase blood pressure and this can be worsened further with binge drinking. Heavy drinkers can reduce their risks of high blood pressure significantly by cutting back on their alcohol consumption. A significant reduction causes systolic blood pressure to decrease by 2 to 4 mm Hg and the diastolic blood pressure by 1 to 2 mm Hg. Individuals diagnosed with high blood pressure should avoid alcohol or only consume it in moderation. Another factor that links alcohol and high blood pressure is the fact that the calories in alcohol are very high and can also cause obesity. It is now common knowledge that being overweight is one of the main risk factors leading to hyper tension. Alcohol also interacts with certain medications and reduces their effectiveness. Therefore, if a person with high blood pressure consumes alcohol while taking prescription medications, there is reduced levels of efficacy of the drugs being taken, thereby aggravating the high blood pressure condition.

Defining High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a reading of blood pressure levels of over 140/90. High blood pressure or hypertension is categorized into two types. These are primary and secondary hypertension. Primary hypertension occurs over time for no identifiable cause. However, it is believed that stress, genetics, anxiety, excessive alcohol intake and smoking are all causes of primary hypertension. Secondary hypertension is high blood pressure that arises due to an underlying condition. Various medical conditions, as well as medications themselves, can cause secondary hypertension. These include kidney problems, diabetes, tumors, birth control pills, decongestants, over-the-counter pain relievers, etc. The most decisive factor to take into account when dealing with hypertension is the importance of early management. This may require those affected making serious lifestyle changes. Careful planning of the diet, regular exercise, change of daily activity levels, avoiding foods containing saturated fats and high sodium as well as giving up alcohol consumption and smoking are some of the lifestyle changes required.

Complications with Hypertension

There are several complications related to hypertension. For example, high blood pressure leads to atherosclerosis which in turn leads to heart attack and strokes. An aneurysm occurs due to increased blood pressure that causes the veins to bulge. Such an excessive pressure can lead to rupture of the veins, causing paralysis or death. Furthermore, thickened and narrowed blood vessels in organs prevent the organs from functioning properly.

Treating Hypertension

High blood pressure, if detected early on, and treated properly, can be prevented from reaching complicated stages. Frequent and regular pressure monitoring along with diet changes and activity level changes are recommended. If the pressure reading is moderately high, a doctor will prescribe lifestyle changes that include exercise and changes in diet. If the person affected is a smoker or consumes alcohol excessively, these habits will need to be moderated. However, if the pressure reading is above average, the doctor will prescribe medications along with lifestyle changes. There is a range of blood pressure medications that target reduction of blood pressure levels. These belong to several groups such as ACE blockers, calcium channel blockers, alpha-blockers, diuretics and beta-blockers. The doctor will prescribe the best medication to suit the patient depending on the levels of blood pressure and other factors that are pertinent to the individual patient.

The correlation between smoking, alcohol and hypertension is quite well established and strong. The more alcohol or cigarettes that you consume, the greater the chance of developing hypertension. As hypertension is a serious, life threatening illness, everyone who smokes and drinks should be extra careful to monitor their levels of blood pressure, in order to avoid complications.