Alcohol and Blood Pressure During COVID-19
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Since you were diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor likely recommended taking your blood pressure at home, some weight loss, more exercise, and healthy eating with less sodium. Making these healthy lifestyle choices, plus taking blood pressure medications as prescribed, are proven to help keep blood pressure down and prevent serious health consequences.
The pandemic, which has upended so many aspects of life, however, has added stress to our lives, and there is another trend that may add fuel to the fire: home alcohol consumption has increased during COVID-19. It is up by more than 10%, and drinking while working from home has become far from uncommon. Too much alcohol can be harmful for anyone, and it can be especially troublesome for your high blood pressure.
Alcohol and Blood Pressure 101
More than 1 to 2 drinks is clearly bad for blood pressure. Optimistic red wine-lovers may point to studies suggesting that a moderate amount may be good for the heart, but drinking more than that leads to more health risks than gains.
The benefits of red wine are largely due to resveratrol, a compound found in red grapes, and white wine and other alcoholic beverages do not have such benefits. If you want resveratrol without alcohol, non-alcoholic red wine as well as grapes peanuts, cocoa, and some types of berries are options.
Alcohol, COVID-19, and Weight Gain
If you are overweight or obese, losing weight can lower blood pressure. In fact, losing about 5 kg. (11 lb.) can lower systolic blood pressure by 5 mm Hg. The effects COVID-19 pandemic can make weight loss more difficult if it is harder to get in a workout or stress or boredom eating has increased.
Alcohol consumption can also lead to weight gain for many reasons.
- Alcohol has calories, say, 100 to 200 per drink.
- People are likely to eat high-calorie foods while drinking.
- Alcohol can lead to feelings of hunger after drinking although the body does not need those calories.
- Low blood sugar from alcohol may lead to carb and sugar cravings.
Home Alcohol Trends During COVID-19
Why are people drinking more at home? In part, it is likely because there is nowhere else to go. Bars and restaurants may be closed or perceived as risky places for spreading COVID-19, so social drinking may move to the home using video chats to connect. In addition, workplaces are closed, and happy hours may be taking place at home, too.
Stress and anxiety may be leading to home drinking. In addition, people may choose to drink while working from home - but keep in mind that employers may have alcohol use policies and employees can easily get caught.
Bucking the Trend
Why let alcohol and a pandemic get in the way of so much hard work to lose weight and manage blood pressure? These are some strategies for reducing alcohol use at home.
- Finding something else to do when the urge to drink happens.
- Building and using a social support system.
- Keeping alcohol out of the home.
- Setting a daily maximum of 1 drink (women) or 2 drinks (men).
Professional help may be necessary if drinking is interfering with daily life, is out of your control, or is otherwise becoming a problem.
Safe(r) Drinking with Hypertension
If you are intent on having the occasional drink, safety precautions are essential if you have high blood pressure. If you choose to drink, the maximum recommended amount is 1 (women) or 2 (men) drinks per day. Here are some tips for safer drinking.
- Never drive while under the influence of alcohol.
- Never drink on an empty stomach. Having a light snack or meal before having a drink can slow the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream, as can drinking slowly.
- Turn to lower-carb, nutritious foods, such as yogurt, chicken, and salads to eat while drinking alcohol, instead of higher-carb foods. This can help limit calorie consumption and keep down carb cravings later.
- Drinking plenty of water while drinking alcohol can help prevent dehydration and reduce alcohol-induced feelings of hunger.
The risks of alcohol are likely to outweigh the benefits of drinking, but there are safer ways to drink if you do choose to drink. Keeping it under control and limiting extra calories can help you stay on track with weight loss and your healthy lifestyle for managing hypertension.