EP #94

Alcohol & Blood Pressure

alcoholic minimalist podcast

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In this episode of the Alcohol Minimalist podcast, host Molly Watts explores the relationship between alcohol consumption and high blood pressure, aiming to help listeners create a peaceful relationship with alcohol. Molly begins by discussing her own experiences and background, highlighting her role as the daughter of an alcoholic mother. She delves into the complexities of high blood pressure, discussing its prevalence, symptoms, and potential risks if left untreated. The episode explores contradictory information available online regarding alcohol’s impact on blood pressure, leading Molly to scrutinize existing research on the topic. She refers to a Cochrane review that investigates the short-term effects of alcohol on blood pressure and heart rate in adults with both normal and raised blood pressure. The review concludes that excessive alcohol consumption is a common cause of high blood pressure, and moderate alcohol intake can lead to decreased blood pressure and increased heart rate within six hours of consumption. Molly emphasizes the gender differences in alcohol metabolism and points out the lack of acute benefits associated with alcohol consumption, emphasizing the negative outcomes related to prolonged alcohol use. She explains the various ways alcohol affects the body, including its impact on the nervous system, kidneys, blood vessels, and hormones. The episode stresses the importance of reducing alcohol intake to lower the risk of high blood pressure and suggests that individuals can significantly improve their blood pressure readings by cutting back on alcohol consumption.

Hey, it’s Molly from alcohol minimalist. What do you do in this October? I would love to have you join me in my more sober October challenge. What do I mean by more sober October, it simply means that we’re going to add in more alcohol free days than you currently been doing, whether that’s one or two or 31. It’s up to you, you get to set your own goal and that’s why it’s more sober October. You can check it out and learn more at get got sunnyside.co/molly It’s totally free. I’ve got grises I’m going to be going live every week to announce the prize winners. And it’s just going to be an awesome event. So I would love to have you join me. You can learn more at get.sunnyside.co/molly and you can get registered today. Welcome to the alcohol minimalist podcast. I’m your host Molly watts. If you want to change your drinking habits and create a peaceful relationship with alcohol, you’re in the right place. This podcast explores the strategies I use to overcome a lifetime of family alcohol abuse, more than 30 years of anxiety and worry about my own drinking and what felt like an unbreakable daily drinking habit. Becoming an alcohol minimalist means removing excess alcohol from your life. So it doesn’t remove you from life. It means being able to take alcohol or leave it without feeling deprived. It means to live peacefully, being able to enjoy a glass of wine without feeling guilty and without needing to finish the bottle. With Science on our side will shatter your past patterns and eliminate your excuses. Changing your relationship with alcohol is possible. I’m here to help you do it. Let’s start now. Well hello and welcome or welcome back to the alcohol minimalist podcast with me your host Molly Watts coming to you from Well, folks, I don’t even know what to say. It’s still happening here in Oregon. We are on this mad streak in October of beautiful days. The rains on the fork in the forecast now it’s on the horizon. So I don’t think that the next time I speak with you that it may be the same story but for right now we have just been enjoying this beautiful beautiful weather. A little bit smoky hazy. We’ve got some forest fires around us not here locally, but that’s been a little a little unusual. But I was actually out at the Oregon coast this last weekend mid October on the beach and it was like 75 degrees and sunny. absolutely epic. All right, I have a prize winner this week. Her name is Amber Hanson. Amber if you are listening, she left a review of the book on Goodreads. Thank you Amber and you can email me Molly at Molly watts.com to grab your alcohol, minimalist swag. If you would like some alcohol, minimalist swag, all you got to do is leave a review of the podcast on whatever podcast player you listen on. And or leave a review of the book breaking the bottle legacy wherever you have picked that up including Goodreads. So thank you, Amber. And if you want to get some alcohol, minimalist swag, just do what Amber did leave a review. And then maybe you’ll hear your name, too. on to this week’s show. This episode was requested by my listener Suzy and thank you so much for your great suggestion. Also, folks, if you have a suggestion for a podcast episode, please email me as well Molly at Molly watts.com. So here’s what Susie’s email says. One of the reasons or shall I say the main reason which prompted me to do a 30 day alcohol free, long overdue. I’ve been worrying about my alcohol consumption for years. And I’m also the daughter of an alcoholic Mom, this is what Susie is telling me was my doctor asking me to get my high blood pressure checked out. That checking out is still going on. But after doing some research, I realized that my heavy drinking over many years may have played a role there. Hypertension also runs in the family. So there’s that as well. I am very fit and not overweight and I eat healthily. So that’s definitely not the cause. My idea for the podcast would be alcohol and blood pressure because the information I could find online is well contradictory. In particular, I would like to know what happens to my blood pressure readings once I cut down on my drinking. IE is the damage quote unquote I’ve done provided that it’s not all genetic anyway, reversible, no clear answers to be found. is what Suzy says. Also, because blood pressure goes down while drinking, I think, which makes it all very confusing. Well, I agree with you, Susie, that the information online can be confusing, and also might sound contradictory. That is often the case when it comes to alcohol and science. And definitely I found that to be true while researching this episode, but I think I’ve cleared it up for myself. And so hopefully, I will be able to clear things up for all of you as well. Let’s dig into this. So first, I want to establish two important things. Number one, having high blood pressure or hypertension is definitely something you want to avoid or something that you want to control if you already have it. And number two, one of the key lifestyle changes doctors prescribe when you have high blood pressure is to reduce or eliminate alcohol. So those are two things that I just want to be clear about upfront as we head into this conversation, that I want you to take away anything that I’m saying as a recommendation for or against drinking in terms of how it relates to blood pressure. These are things that you need to understand hypertension, and high blood pressure is something you want to avoid and control. And number two, it is very well established and doctors recommend that if you have high blood pressure, reducing alcohol or eliminating it is part of the protocol to improve your blood pressure. Why we want to avoid high blood pressure in the first place. Well, it’s called the silent killer because most of the time there are no symptoms of high blood pressure. It is a myth that high blood pressure will expose people with it will experience nervousness or sweating or have difficulty sleeping or facial flushing. And I’ve talked before on the podcast that there are certain numbers that we just need to know for our health. Knowing your blood pressure monitoring it if you have been told that your blood pressure is high. This is one of those numbers that you need to know. So be like Suze and get your blood pressure checked out. If you find that you have high blood pressure, well, you are in good company. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about one out of every three American adults have high blood pressure or hypertension. Because high blood pressure is so common, it might be tempting to assume that it’s no big deal. But the truth is that When left untreated, high blood pressure can put you at risk for potentially life threatening complications. Here are eight ways that uncontrolled high blood pressure can negatively affect your health. So number one, it raises your risk of heart attack and stroke. High blood pressure damages the walls of your arteries, and this makes them more likely to develop deposits of plaque that harden and narrow or block your arteries. These deposits can also lead to blood clots and blood clots can flow through your bloodstream and block blood flow to your heart or your brain, which is what results in a heart attack or a stroke. Number two high blood pressure makes you more likely to develop heart failure. When your arteries are hardened or narrowed your heart has to work harder to circulate your blood. This increased workload can cause your heart to become larger and fail to supply your organs with blood. You might also experience if you have high blood pressure, angina, chest pain, and that occurs when the heart does not get the blood that it needs. When people with high blood pressure perform activities such as walking uphill, going upstairs exercising angina can cause pressure squeezing pain or a feeling of fullness in the chest. High blood pressure can cause kidney damage. Your kidneys help your body get rid of toxins and regulate many of your body’s complex functions. And high blood pressure can cause damage to the arteries around your kidneys. This can reduce their ability to do their job and lead to kidney failure. Number five, you are more likely to develop vision problems. Your eyes are full of small blood vessels that can easily be strained or damaged by high blood pressure. It can also cause swelling of your optic nerve. lowering your blood pressure sometimes can reverse vision problems. But high blood blood pressure left untreated can cause permanent vision loss or impairment. So again, things you don’t want to have happen. High blood pressure can cause sexual dysfunction. It can cause low libido in women and erectile dysfunction in men. Number seven, it raises your risk for peripheral artery disease. peripheral artery disease occurs when the arteries in your legs arms and stomach or head become arrowed and cause pain, cramping and fatigue. If you have pa D, it’s also abbreviated peripheral artery disease PID, you are also at increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Number eight, you can have if you have high blood pressure hypertension, you can have a hyper, you are at risk for having a hypertensive crisis. And hypertensive crisis is a medical emergency that raises your blood pressure that causes your blood pressure to rise above 180 over 120 rapidly. If your blood pressure gets too high, it can cause damage to your organs and other potentially life threatening complications. Symptoms of a hyper tempts heads ensive crisis include blurry vision, dizziness, lightheadedness, severe headaches, nosebleed, shortness of breath, chest pain, feeling of anxiety, that is that something is not right. If you have any of these symptoms, you need to call 911 or get to the nearest emergency room right away. So there are as we just talked about, lots of reasons for why you want to avoid high blood pressure, right? High blood pressure is an issue. And what’s also something that we need to establish is that there is a relationship between blood pressure and alcohol. So now we’ve talked about why you want to avoid high blood pressure. Now let’s talk about the relationship between alcohol and blood pressure. Susie’s email brought up some seemingly contradictory or at least confusing information. And that’s because most of the studies that that she was looking at, and lots of the studies that I saw on alcohol and blood pressure were on acute use, meaning they were studies that were focused on single use cases. And they do appear to show that when you are drinking, your blood pressure decreases, all right, in an acute sense, and also dependent upon how much you’re drinking. So we’ll get there in a second. But when you are actually in the process of drinking a glass of wine or any type of alcoholic beverage, right in a single use, acute case, your blood pressure decreases, again, based on the amount that you’re drinking on lower levels and mid levels of drinking your blood pressure decreases. Neuro Chemically speaking, this seems logical to me, because at low levels of blood alcohol content, the primary effect is relaxation and euphoria, when you are mentally stressed out, it can also cause a temporary rise in blood pressure. So right so this is an that actually happens, right? So it is true that when you are mentally stressed out, your blood pressure goes out, we blood pressure goes up. This is I mean allegorically I think everybody here you know, you’ve heard the saying like, it’s really raising my blood pressure, right? My blood starting to boil like this idea. And but it’s true when you are mentally stressed out, it can cause a temporary rise in blood pressure. So if you are drinking to relieve stress, it would follow that you might experience a decrease in blood pressure. If you do in fact, relax your mental state. All right. So there is like I said, I saw I saw some evidence of that too. In the studies. The studies that I saw on this were admittedly limited. They were presented and collected by Cochrane, which is an international network that is UK based. I wasn’t familiar with Cochrane, but here’s what it says in from their website. Cochrane is for anyone interested in using high quality information to make health decisions. Whether you are a clinician patient or researcher or policymaker Cochrane evidence provides a powerful tool to enhance your health care, knowledge and decision making. conference members and supporters come from more than 190 countries worldwide. We are researchers, health professionals, patients, and people passionate about improving health outcomes for everyone everywhere. Our global independent network gathers and summarizes the best evidence from research to help you make informed choices about treatment. And we have been doing that for 28 years. We do not accept commercial or conflicted funding. This is vital for us to generate authoritative and reliable information working freely unconstrained by commercial and financial interests. So I liked a lot what it said on the Cochrane website and where their intentions are. And so this article was published by them in 2020. And it’s titled, alcohol has a biphasic effect on blood pressure and increases heart rate. So the review question was, we reviewed available evidence about the Short term effects of different doses of alcoholic drinks compared to non alcoholic drinks on blood pressure and heart rate in adults with both normal and raised blood pressure background, drinking excessive alcohol is considered one of the most common causes of raised blood pressure. We wanted to quantify the effects of a single dose of alcohol on blood pressure and heart rate within 24 hours of consumption. Now, that’s the background. So what I think is interesting there is that they say that drinking excessive alcohol is considered one of the most common causes of raise blood pressure. But what they don’t really differentiate between is chronic use versus and sustained prolonged use versus an acute use. And so we’re going to talk about that in a minute too. But this background, these studies, so the studies that really showed that alcohol lowers blood pressure, we’re talking about acute incidences and short term effects. All right. So the study characteristics, they included 32 randomized controlled trials involving 767 participants, so not that many, in all honesty, 767 is not a huge number. These trials included adults from 18 to 96 years of age with various health conditions. Most study participants were young, healthy males. Okay, so right there, they already talked about in the 767 people. And I don’t know if I have the number down here, what it really was, but a low percentage of them were women. And that’s another whole bailiwick we’re not going to go into today, but Suzy women, and men metabolize alcohol differently. So studies that are based for men are going to not have the same impact for women, we need to be cognizant of that. Right. But this was the most study participants were young, healthy males. What they found is that for low doses of alcohol, we found that one glass of alcohol had little or no effect on blood pressure, and increased heart rate within six hours of drinking. We are moderately certain they said that medium dose alcohol, decreased blood pressure and increased heart rate within six hours of consumption. We did not see any significant change in blood pressure or heart rate after that, but the evidence was limited. They also say we are also moderately certain that high dose alcohol, decreased blood pressure within six hours. And the effect lasted up to 12 hours. After that blood pressure was found to be increased heart rate increased significantly after alcohol consumption and remained increased at all times. This is their conclusion now, thus, alcohol decreases blood pressure initially up to 12 hours after ingestion, and increases blood pressure after that. Alcohol consistently increases heart rate at all times within 24 hours of consumption. So my key takeaways from this article, so like I said, the sample size across 32 studies is only 767. Participants, it says the vast majority were healthy males and the median age was 33. The difference again, men and women metabolize alcohol differently. So right there, we have a problem for this data for women. Number two, it’s only talking about single use. So it’s talking about this acute use of alcohol. And this is not at all based on long term use. And really, that is where most of us who drink need to be focused is on long term uses, right? Although obviously, if you’re talking about a binge scenario, we’ll talk about that a minute. That would be another incident where you’re going to the amount that you drink is going to greatly impact your blood pressure in an immediate sense. And what it does show as basically all science around alcohol shows is that the more alcohol you drink, the greater the damage. This is true for both acute one time, you know short term use and long term use. Alcohol impacts are dose dependent. Hey, all just a quick break in the show to talk with you for a minute about sunny side. It’s fall and it’s time for tailgaters and holiday parties on the horizon. There is never a better time than right now to put a mindful plan into place. And Sunnyside is my recommendation for how you can really use a tool that provides a way to track your drinks measure your progress and really uses proven behavior change techniques to create lasting habit change. The thing is you can reduce your drinking by 30% in the first 30 days with Sunnyside and you can save over $50 a month. Cut out 2500 calories out of your diet and these are just based on average results. I know that people that I talk to and people that I work with are using Sunnyside and getting great results If you’d like to find out if it will work for you go to www.sunnyside.co/minimalist. To get started on a free 15 day trial today the information from Cochran basically showed little or no impact on blood pressure over a six hour period for little or no alcohol, a lowering of a medium amount. And with a high amount, there was an immediate lowering, followed by a rebound, higher blood pressure. Again, these were single kind of acute usage stories, I think that we could, again, if you just think about it, neuro chemically and what happens, the more alcohol you take in, you will probably have a rebound in blood pressure or rebound anxiety because the same thing happens right? If you’re if your neuro chemistry is impacting your your blood pressure, which it does, to how you think and feel actually does impact your blood pressure, it makes sense that if you drink too much alcohol, the rebound anxiety that you feel would also cause a rebound in increased blood pressure. So I hope that I didn’t actually really clear anything up for anybody. I don’t know, what I basically saw was that in these studies, there was some evidence that in an acute sense, an alcoholic beverage, when you are sticking to those low risk limits and keeping your blood alcohol content lower, not a medium or higher use of alcohol. So we’re not going to be over drinking. If you over drink, you will raise your blood pressure and raise your blood pressure after the fact. But there is a lowering of blood pressure from drinking that first initial drink. And other studies have shown that to alcohol lowers blood pressure in some people in that short term effect. And the effect is always temporary. The blood pressure lowering effect of alcohol is due to a release of several substances such as nitric oxide, that cause blood vessels to widen, which lowers blood pressure. And these blood pressure lowering substances don’t stick around for long, which is why around 13 hours or after the last drink, blood pressure can actually rise. And that will happen even more dramatically. If a large amount of alcohol is consumed. We see the correlation for drinking higher amounts and negative health outcomes. And even in an acute situation if somebody already has high blood pressure, a binge episode, which as a reminder is four or more drinks for a woman in two hours and five or more drinks in two hours for a man. Those higher amounts may put you at risk for atrial fibrillation, which is an irregular or quivering heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, stroke and failure also related to your blood pressure. All right. We’re going to move from acute use to the effects of alcohol on blood pressure as the result of prolonged use. I want to say something that I think is obvious, but there isn’t a lot of study done on acute benefits for alcohol. Because we know that over time and with increased use, there is so much more danger with alcohol for many different negative outcomes. That research is more focused on determining if there is any type of benefit to drinking alcohol over the long run. And what that tipping point is between what would be considered safe and what is not safe. Does that make sense? So there isn’t a lot of study done on these acute short term effects because quite honestly, the more relevant question is we know that there are very negative outcomes for prolonged use of alcohol. And we want to understand if there’s any tipping point in that long run between a safe or unsafe level. And if you’re not clear on this, then you can go back and listen to many episodes of this podcast. Or Visit my website and download my free ebook alcohol truths how much is safe, and you will hear the same message repeated often the only unequivocally safe amount of alcohol is zero. No one should add alcohol to your life if you are not already drinking it for any perceived health benefit. And if you are drinking beyond low risk limits, you can lessen the negative impacts of alcohol on your physical health, your social health and your financial health by reducing your drinking become a hashtag alcohol minimalist. Okay, PSA done. Let’s look at alcohol and blood pressure in terms of long term effects what actually happens in the body So even though blood pressure may go down temporarily after an alcoholic drink, the overall long term effect of regular drinking is for blood pressure to Gen to gradually increase. This is because of alcohols effect on several different parts of the body, including the nervous system, the kidneys and the blood vessels. High blood pressure is caused by the effects of alcohol on these body systems and hormones. The brain and nervous system release fight or flight hormones like adrenaline, which raises blood pressure and heart rate. Number two calcium levels rise in response to drinking alcohol causing blood vessels to narrow and blood pressure to go up. Number three, vasopressin is a naturally occurring chemical that increases after drinking, it causes the body to hold on to more water, which raises blood pressure. renin angiotensin aldosterone levels increase, causing blood vessels to narrow and blood pressure to rise. For dizzle, a stress hormone causes water retention, and a rise in blood pressure. Lastly, Barrow receptors are sensors in blood vessels that increase blood pressure in response to regular alcohol use. So these are the things that are directly happening in your body in your body systems because of drinking alcohol. And aside from these direct effects on blood pressure, alcohol can also indirectly increase the risk of high blood pressure because alcoholic drinks are high in calories and sugar and can contribute to weight gain, weight gain and diabetes, obesity and diabetes go hand in hand with high blood pressure. So there is absolutely benefit to reducing your alcohol intake because it will help you lower your risk of high blood pressure, you can significantly lower your blood pressure by reducing alcohol if you are someone who is drinking more than two drinks per day. And National Institute of Health Studies showed that people who had two or more drinks per day significantly improved their blood pressure readings by lowering their alcohol intake. If you lower your alcohol intake from heavy to moderate use, you can expect to lower your systolic blood pressure, the top number by 5.5 millimeters per HG and your diastolic blood pressure bottom number by four mm Hg if you quit altogether, you may be even able to lower your blood pressure even more. So these recommendations, the relationship between alcohol and blood pressure is absolutely proven. And it’s proven because when people who have drank regularly do lower their alcohol intake, they see their blood pressure numbers go down. So it isn’t whether or not blood pressure and alcohol are related. They absolutely are. It’s how much can you benefit? And how much can you reverse the damage that you’ve already done. And bottom line is, every day that you are able to live with a lowered blood pressure. It’s a better day in terms of being able to reverse the the negative consequences, the negative impacts that you may have been having for years and years. There’s no benefit to continuing on with it with a drinking habit that is raising your blood pressure when you’ve already been diagnosed if you’ve already been diagnosed with blood pressure issues, all right. So let’s just think about that logically, you might not be able to reverse all of the damage that you’ve already done, but you every day that you do is a day that you are living with better health and lower risk for developing all these issues that come with high blood pressure. All right. The main takeaways I hope you get from this is that in a very acute sense on a very limited basis, which I guess you know, overall, if you listen to me often enough, you hear me say that the therapeutic effect of alcohol is very limited. And the same is true when it comes to blood pressure in a very acute sense. drinking a drink may lower your blood pressure, but on a sustained basis on a long term basis in anything more than those low risk limits. You are causing yourself to have high blood pressure or you are causing a rebound in blood pressure as the alcohol leaves your system. And there are many ways that alcohol interacts with your bodies and your systems in terms of the hormones and the nervous system and the kidneys and the blood vessels themselves that you don’t want to impair by maintaining a higher risk level of drinking, so cut back on your drinking to lower your blood pressure. And if you have high blood pressure already, you definitely want to make sure that you are working with your physician to control that, right. And that’s another whole topic that we’re not getting into. But the interaction between alcohol and blood pressure medications is also something that isn’t great. So, again, reasons that you will want to create a peaceful relationship with alcohol stick to those low risk limits because they absolutely do impact your blood pressure. All right, that’s all I have for you this week, my friends, make it a great week and choose peace. Thank you for listening to the alcohol minimalist podcast. This podcast is dedicated to helping you change your drinking habits and to create a peaceful relationship with alcohol. Use something you learned in today’s episode and apply it to your life this week. Transformation is possible you have the power to change your relationship with alcohol now, for more information, please visit me at www dot Molly watts.com