Living With High Blood Pressure

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Reducing alcohol and your blood pressure

Alcohol and your heart

Drinking more than the recommended amount of alcohol can have a harmful effect on your blood pressure. As well as directly affecting blood pressure, alcohol can encourage other unhealthy habits, like smoking or eating salty and sugary foods. Alcohol is also high in calories so it can lead to weight gain, which can increase your risk of heart and circulatory disease too.

You may hear myths about some drinks, like red wine being good for your heart, but there’s actually no proof that one type of alcohol is ‘better’ for you than another.

Learn more about the effects of alcohol on your heart >

Understanding alcohol guidelines

You should avoid drinking more than 14 units a week and those units should be spread out over at least 3 days. One drink can contain as many as 3 or 4 units.

A unit is a measure of alcohol. The number of units in your drink is based on the size of the drink and its alcohol strength (ABV).

The ABV (alcohol by volume) figure is the percentage of alcohol in the drink.

A single pub measure (25mls) of spirits (40% ABV) contains one unit of alcohol.

A small glass (50 ml) of liqueur, sherry or other fortified wine (20% ABV) contains one unit of alcohol.

Half a pint (about 300mls) of normal strength (4% ABV) lager, cider or beer contains 1.1 unit of alcohol. But many beers and ciders are stronger and have a higher volume than this.

A standard 175ml glass of wine (13% ABV) would be 2.3 units, and many wines have a higher alcohol content. You also need to be careful because a lot of glasses are bigger than 175ml.

Download the NHS Drinks Tracker app onto your smartphone to stay aware of what you drink.

How to start cutting back

These 4 top tips will help you drink less and look after your heart.

  1. Downsize. By switching from a large glass of wine to a small, or a pint to a half-pint, you can have what you want, but in moderation.

  2. Read the label. Some drinks are stronger than others. This will be shown by their % ABV (ABV stands for ‘alcohol by volume’). Choose drinks with a lower % ABV.

  3. Take a break. Try to have at least 3-4 alcohol-free days a week. And make sure you don’t use the other days to ‘catch up’.

  4. Alternate alcoholic drinks with water or sugar-free soft drinks to stay hydrated and slow down your alcohol intake.

How many calories are you drinking? Test your alcohol knowledge >

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