High blood pressure is often referred to as “the silent killer” because it typically has no symptoms until after it has done significant damage to the heart and arteries. Left untreated, a blood pressure of 180/120 or higher results in an 80 percent chance of death within one year, with an average survival rate of ten months. This is why proper management is so crucial when dealing with the condition. This includes being extra vigilant with what foods and drinks one consumes. When it comes to alcoholic beverages, what is best?
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As a general rule, its best to limit the amount of alcohol you drink, or even better, cut it out completely.
However, this is not always feasible for many, especially during the build up to Christmas season.
Being aware of recommendations for how much alcohol you should drink is important.
The NHS states: “Units of alcohol are a simple way of expressing the quantity of pure alcohol in a drink.
“One unit equals 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol, which is around the amount of alcohol the average adult can process in an hour. A pint of strong lager contains three units of alcohol and knowing your units will help you stay in control of your drinking.
“Men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week. You can work out how many units there are in any drink by multiplying the total volume of a drink (in ml) by its ABV 9 and dividing the result by 1,000.
“You can find the ABV on the labels of cans and bottles, sometimes written as ‘vol.’”
Some research shows that drinking alcohol in moderation makes for a healthier heart.
Light moderate drinking, defined as up to two drinks a day for men and one for women has shown a subtle drop in blood pressure.
Alcohol, in small amounts, has been shown to lower blood pressure by two to four mmHg.
Most experts agree, though, that does not show a significant enough drop to advise drinking for an entire population.
What’s best to drink
A Dutch study showed that heart-healthy nutrients called polyphenols in red wine help prevent heart disease, but not because of a drop in blood pressure.
Research shows that the polyphenols improve the cells lining the blood vessels and improve blood flow and heart health.
The jury is still out, though, on whether this could potentially improve high blood pressure.
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In a study with Science Daily, drinking wine or beer was analysed for its effect on blood pressure.
The effects were that both wine and beer both make blood pressure higher.
Lead researcher Dr Renate R. Zilkens said: “A positive relationship between alcohol consumption and blood pressure is well established, but the relative effect of specific alcoholic beverages is controversial.”
Blood Pressure UK offers tips for drinking alcohol if you want to keep your reading in check:
- Try low-alcohol options – there are now a number of lower-strength beers on the market.
- Check the label – many drinks’ labels now tell you how many units they contain.
- Make your drinks last longer by adding mixers or water.
- Don’t eat bar snacks like crisps and peanuts – the added salt will make you want to drink more, and will raise your blood pressure.
- If you drink at home, buy a measure so that you know how much you are drinking.
Drinkaware.co.uk advised: “Keep track of what you’re drinking as it can help to cut down on alcohol. Eat a healthy meal before you start drinking, and low-fat snacks between drinks can help to slow down the absorption of alcohol.
“Try and have several drink-free days a week as a good way to try and cut down. You can lower your blood pressure by cutting down on alcohol.
“Alcohol can have a serious long-term effect on blood pressure and research has shown that heavy drinking can lead to increased risk of hypertension for both men and women.
“Healthy diet, exercise and keeping caffeine to a minimum will help to lower blood pressure.”
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