Alcohol has many short- and long-term effects on the body. In particular, when people drink a lot or drink regularly, alcohol can affect the heart and lead to high blood pressure and heart disease. High blood pressure in teens is not often a problem — people are generally more at risk of having blood pressure issues when they get older. However, because of the effect of alcohol on blood pressure, adolescents and young adults who binge drink sometimes experience heart-related side effects that can turn into more serious health problems in the future.
Why is Blood Pressure Important?
Blood pressure is a measurement of how hard blood is pushing against the walls of vessels. When someone gets a blood pressure reading, they will receive two different numbers. The first measures systolic blood pressure, the amount of force put on blood vessels every time the heart beats. The second number is diastolic blood pressure, which describes the levels of pressure in the blood vessels when the heart is at rest.
High blood pressure is also known as hypertension. If hypertension is not addressed, it will lead to more serious health problems in the future, including kidney disease, heart disease and stroke. People with high blood pressure don’t usually have any symptoms, so the only way to know for sure if someone has hypertension is to get a blood pressure reading done.
In adults, prehypertension occurs when someone gets a reading of over 120/80 mmHg. Hypertension is diagnosed when an adult has multiple readings over 140/90. Normal blood pressure levels for teenagers are a little different, however. Doctors compare blood pressure readings to those of other teens of the same age, height and gender. If a teen has a higher blood pressure than 95% of other people in the same category, doctors consider that person to have high blood pressure.
How Does Alcohol Affect Blood Pressure
People who have a history of high blood pressure, or who have family members who have hypertension, should be aware of how alcohol affects blood pressure. Those who know the risks can better ensure that their drinking isn’t causing serious health problems.
In the past, medical professionals would commonly recommend drinking one glass of red wine a day; at the time, there was some evidence that moderate alcohol use lowers blood pressure. However, newer studies show that this is likely not the case. Any amount of drinking tends to cause people’s blood pressure to rise, and people who drink often nearly always develop high blood pressure. The good news is that the effects of alcohol on high blood pressure can usually be reversed if someone stops or reduces their drinking.
Risks of Adolescent Hypertension
Hypertension in teens is not too common, although as many as 1–5% may have this condition. It is less likely to cause health problems like strokes or heart attacks when it occurs in children, but having high blood pressure as a teenager makes it more likely that someone will continue to have high blood pressure as an adult.
Teens and young adults who binge drink or who drink often should get their blood pressure checked. Getting it measured regularly can help people identify when their blood pressure is starting to rise too high. Health care providers can help young people develop healthier habits that will lower their blood pressure and improve their long-term health.
Binge Drinking May Be a Cause of High Blood Pressure in Young Men
Young men have an elevated risk of developing high blood pressure after binge drinking, compared with women. One study found that in male teens and young adults, those who binge drank more than 12 times per year had a higher blood pressure than those who didn’t binge drink. Additionally, the more often men participated in binge drinking, the higher their blood pressure was. The study also found that both male and female young adults had elevated cholesterol levels.
The best way to avoid high blood pressure for teen boys and young adults is to avoid binge drinking altogether. People who are worried about whether their drinking is affecting their blood pressure levels should get a reading from their health care provider. Because blood pressure levels naturally change throughout the day and throughout the week, doctors will usually take multiple blood pressure readings at different times before diagnosing someone with hypertension. If someone has higher than normal blood pressure for teens, their doctor may recommend several treatments or lifestyle changes, potentially including giving up drinking completely.
Maintaining Healthy Blood Pressure in Teens
There are several ways to maintain healthy blood pressure for teens. One thing people can do to help their heart health is to eat less salt. Doctors also often recommend more exercise for high blood pressure treatment. Recent research also shows that breathing exercises help lower blood pressure. Taking slow, deep breaths can help people who are struggling with mild hypertension.
People should avoid binge drinking in order to prevent health problems like high blood pressure. Someone who has trouble controlling their drinking levels may have a problem with alcohol use disorder. Treatment programs can help people learn to live a more healthy lifestyle that avoids alcohol use. If you are worried about teen alcohol use, call Next Generation Village to learn about treatment options.