Regular alcohol abuse puts a person’s health in danger. This toxic substance can harm almost every organ in the body. It can also lead to hypertension (high blood pressure). To avoid these dangers, a person needs to stick to sensible drinking limits. If unable to do this, it may be time for them to give up drinking altogether. Failure to do so could lead to ill-health and an early death.
Blood pressure is the force that this substance creates as it passes through the arteries. It is similar to water passing through a hose attached to a tap. If the tap is fully open, there will be more pressure inside the hose. The heart is a pump and pressure is caused as this organ pushes the blood around the body. This process is vital to survival. Sometimes the pressure inside the arteries can be too high, causing damage to different parts of the body. The body can manage occasional high levels of blood pressure, but over time it becomes more damaging.
When people go to see their doctor, they will usually have their blood pressure taken. This is to check to see if the individual is showing signs of hypertension. It involves two measurements: systolic and diastolic. The diastolic value is the pressure inside the arteries in between heartbeats, while the systolic value is a measurement of the pressure caused by a heartbeat. The systolic value is always higher than the diastolic. These are the widely accepted blood pressure ranges:
* A systolic less than 120 and a diastolic less than 80 is considered normal
* A systolic between 120 and 139 and a diastolic between 80 and 89 is classified as pre-hypertension.
* A systolic between 140 and 159 and a diastolic between 90 and 99 is classified as stage 1 hypertension
* A systolic greater than 160 and a diastolic greater than 100 is classified as stage 2 hypertension.
Fluctuation in blood pressure throughout the day is normal. It can also climb high in response to stressful events. Some people become stressed when they see a doctor. This is known as white coat syndrome. Having occasional high blood pressure readings does not automatically indicate hypertension.
High blood pressure can sometimes be referred to as the silent killer. This is because it people often have this condition without noticing any symptoms. Their hypertension only becomes noticeable during a routine medical checkup. This is why it is so important to have these. It is only when blood pressure is extremely high that it can become more noticeable. Hypertension symptoms can include:
* A pounding feeling in the chest, ears, or neck
* Strong headaches
* Problems with breathing
* Feeling tired
* Problems with eyesight
* Evidence of blood in the urine
* A heartbeat that is irregular
* Chest pain
High blood pressure may be due to a number of different causes including:
* Drinking too much alcohol
* Being obese, such as having a body mass index greater than 25 or exhibiting abdominal obesity (beer belly)
* Engaging in insufficient exercise
* Smoking cigarettes
* Genetic predisposition
* Excessive stress or poor management skills
* Vitamin D deficiency
* Taking certain medications including birth control drugs
* Thyroid problems
* Adrenal gland problems
* Problems with the endocrine system
* Pregnancy-related pre-eclampsia
* Kidney problems
Hypertension has serious health implications. The damage done by this condition can occur slowly over time without the individual noticing any problems. These are some of the dangers of hypertension:
* High blood pressure causes damage to the arteries. If the pressure inside these tubes is too high, it can start to damage the cells in the lining. This can eventually mean that the inner walls develop a thick coating where fats can accumulate. This leads to a situation known as arteriosclerosis. This build up can eventually lead to blockages and this leads to serious problems and death.
* Another danger with high blood pressure is that it can weaken the walls of arteries. Sometimes things can become so bad that the wall develops a break. This can cause an aneurism.
* It leads to coronary artery disease, arrhythmias and heart attacks.
* High blood pressure can lead to a stroke, because the blood vessels in the brain become so damaged that blood cannot get to some of the cells. If enough of these cells are damaged, permanent loss of function or death can result. A transient ischemic attack is a kind of mini-stoke in which the blood supply is only temporary stopped. Such an event can also cause permanent damage.
* It is now believed that high blood pressure can lead to dementia. This is because not enough blood is able to get to the brain.
* Hypertension can lead to an enlarged left side of the heart. When this organ becomes enlarged, it is less able to do its job correctly. The individual is then at risk of sudden heart failure.
* Over long periods, the strain of high blood pressure can prove too much for the heart, leading to heart failure.
* High blood pressure can also put a great deal of strain on the kidneys. It can lead to scarring and kidney failure. In fact, hypertension is one of the most common causes of kidney failure.
* It can lead to erectile dysfunction in men, because damage to the arteries means that blood is unable to reach the genitals.
* Hypertension can also cause eye problems.
The exact mechanism by which alcohol increases blood pressure is not fully understood. One possibility is that long term use of alcohol may cause the blood vessels to vasoconstrict. It might also be that chronic abuse leads to vascular hyperactivity. Those who are withdrawing from alcohol can also experience high blood pressure.
Another way that overindulgence in alcohol leads to high blood pressure by contributing to obesity. The famous beer belly results from the empty calories in alcoholic drinks. Combined with a regular diet, this means the individual is consuming more calories than they can use. Any unused calories gets stored as fat.
Some people do seem to be more prone to hypertension than others. There are things that the individual can do to avoid hypertension or keep it under control:
* Drinking alcohol sensibly. This means one drink per day for adult women and two drinks per day for men. Those who are over 65 years of age should stick to one drink per day.
* Maintain healthy body weight, with a BMI less than 25.
* Research the benefits and downsides of different types of food. The trick is to eat a balanced diet and avoid junk food. Eating mindfully helps to develop a completely new and healthier approach to food.
* Avoid leading a sedentary lifestyle. People need to do some form of exercise most days.
* It is important to avoid consuming too much salt, as this can increase blood pressure.
* Find better ways of dealing with stress. Learning a relaxation technique such as yoga can be a wonderful way to do this.
* Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke
* Reduce the intake of caffeinated drinks such as coffee
* Monitor blood pressure levels. It is not helpful if people become too obsessed with their blood pressure so that they are monitoring it every few hours. This could lead to a great deal of stress and cause their blood pressure to shoot through the roof. People can buy a blood pressure monitoring device that they can use at home and they can use this on a regular basis and keep a diary of the result. They should also be sure to attend their physician regularly so that they can have their blood pressure checked there.