Find us on Facebook

alcohol health alliance uk

Drinkers in the North East at risk of hypertension

Posted 17/05/18

On World Hypertension Day drinkers in the North East are being warned about the risks of developing hypertension, which is linked to stroke, heart disease and vascular dementia.

The warning comes just days after Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, revealed that almost half a million drinkers in the region are exceeding the low risk drinking guidelines of no more than 14 units of alcohol a week for both men and women.

Hypertension, the medical term for persistently high blood pressure, affects more than 1 in 4 adults in England. Around 13 million people are living with the condition, though five million of those remain undiagnosed.

In the North East it is estimated that over 700,000 people have hypertension, with over quarter of a million likely to be unaware they have the condition.

Research shows regularly drinking alcohol increases the risk of developing hypertension:
• People are more likely to develop hypertension after having just one drink a day and drinking two or three increases the risk substantially.
• More than three alcoholic drinks a day can increase the chance of developing hypertension in later life by up to 75%

Without treatment, hypertension significantly increases a person’s risk of a stroke, heart disease, vascular dementia and chronic kidney disease. Yet for many, reducing their alcohol intake, or cutting out alcohol altogether, could significantly reduce their risk of these life-threatening conditions.

Dr Georgina Morgan, GP and Associate Medical Director with Northumbria Primary Care, said: “Alcohol is a cause of high blood pressure which increases people’s risk of having a stroke and developing heart disease. When people reduce how much they drink – or cut out alcohol altogether - they can lower their blood pressure very quickly.

“Drinkers need to be aware of the links between drinking and hypertension. Equally, as GPs we have a responsibility to make sure we are discussing alcohol use with our patients who have high blood pressure.”

Hypertension caused by alcohol is also putting a strain on the NHS. Cardiovascular disease linked to high blood pressure accounts for over 33,000 North East hospital admissions every year.

As part of its ‘Can’t See It’ campaign Balance is encouraging people to take at least two or three days off drinking alcohol every week as a way of cutting down to 14 units or under and reducing the risks of a range of alcohol related diseases.

Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, said: “There will be thousands of drinkers in the North East who are completely unaware that they have high blood pressure and exposed to the risks that come with it. What is particularly worrying is that many of those people will mistakenly class themselves as light or moderate drinkers when, in fact, they are drinking above the low risk weekly guidelines.

“The risk of hypertension increases with age and we know that people in their 40s and 50s are more likely to be regularly drinking more than 14 units a week than any other age group.

“We need our healthcare professionals to be regularly screening their patients to determine their alcohol use so that people with problems are picked up. More than that, we need Government action to warn of the dangers of drinking above the low risk guidelines. That means well-funded advertising campaigns and mandatory warning labels on alcohol labels and alcohol advertising.”