Once your doctor diagnoses you with a health condition such as high blood pressure, you may need to resign yourself to life without certain foods or beverages you once enjoyed. Although you might find drinking a beer or two after work pleasurable, this beverage may have adverse effects when combined with your blood pressure medications.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a common condition that gradually develops over a period of years. Your blood pressure is determined by the amount of blood your heart pumps versus the amount of resistance of blood flow through your arteries. The greater the resistance, the more blood your heart pumps, increasing the pressure. Over time, your arteries narrow, resulting in damage to your artery walls. It often displays no symptoms, earning it the nickname "the silent killer." Left untreated, it can result in heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Your doctor can easily detect and treat this condition. It may begin with dietary and lifestyle changes, however, blood pressure medications may also be necessary.
Blood Pressure Medications
Alcohol may affect each blood pressure medication differently because their side effects vary. Diuretics, for example, may cause weakness, leg cramps and fatigue, while beta-blockers can cause insomnia, depression, slow heartbeat, impotence, cold hands or feet and asthma symptoms. ACE inhibitors may cause skin rashes, a chronic cough, loss of taste and kidney damage in rare instances. Calcium channel blockers can result in heart palpitations, constipation, headache, swollen ankles and dizziness.
Understanding alcohol metabolism highlights the possible danger of combining beer and blood pressure medications. When you take your medication, it enters your bloodstream, performing the necessary changes in your body to treat your condition. It is then broken down and eliminated. Alcohol works the same way. So, in many cases, alcohol competes for the enzymes needed to break down and eliminate the medications. This increases the time the drug remains in your body, thus increasing the potential side effects of the drug. If you drink on a regular basis, the reverse occurs. Alcohol may actually decrease the effectiveness of your blood pressure medication.
Drinking moderate amounts of alcohol is usually OK for people with high blood pressure. Moderate amounts are considered two drinks per day for men and one for women. A 12 oz. can of beer is considered one drink. Alcohol is also high in calories and can lead to unwanted weight gain. This is a risk factor for high blood pressure, and may counteract the effectiveness of blood pressure medications.
If you regularly consume more than the moderate amount of alcohol and have high blood pressure, you can reduce your systolic pressure between 2 and 4 points by reducing your consumption to moderate levels. This is not always par for the course, though. Certain factors determine how many points your pressure drops. These include your current blood pressure, your age, your previous alcohol consumption and other medical conditions such as diabetes or kidney disease. Always consult with your doctor, though, especially when taking a blood pressure medication.
- MayoClinic.com; Alcohol: Does It Affect Blood Pressure?; July 2010
- American Heart Association: Why Blood Pressure Matters
- National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: Types of Blood Pressure Medications
- MayoClinic.com; High Blood Pressure (Hypertension); March 2011
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism; Alcohol-Medication Interactions; October 2000