We’re often asked about alcohol. People are usually concerned about how much is good to drink, should they abstain completely, or how many nights off alcohol they should have each week?
There are clear government guidelines on what constitutes the recommended consumption for good health, and there has been much research done into the effects of alcohol on many areas of health, performance and sleep to name a few.
For the sake of this article, we’re looking at alcohol and its effects on blood pressure, primarily because we come across a lot of people with high blood pressure and alcohol can sometimes be a factor.
It’s important to point out right away thought that it’s not all bad news for drinkers as there is some evidence that moderate drinking, for some people, at specific times in life, can lower blood pressure and help you relax.
The not so positive news however is that too much alcohol increases the tension in arteries causing blood pressure to rise. Excessive consumption can also lead to weight gain, which in turn brings with it an increased risk of high blood pressure.
As with much of our work, successful drinking is all about balance, so how do you go about finding the right balance?
Many people we work with have an idea of what healthy drinking means for them but there are inherent challenges of working life that can get in the way, including:
Work-related social events
Business dinners (and lunches)
There’s also the factor that alcohol is often used as a way to unwind after a busy day or week . This is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as you bear in mind that just because a little makes you feel good, more will not necessarily make you feel even better.
When it comes to maintaining a successful approach to drinking there are 4 simple steps to planning a strategy for balance, health and optimum blood pressure:
1. Devise a macro strategy
Most people know the consumption of alcohol that they enjoy and they also know (but often only with hindsight) when they’ve tipped the balance into the territory where they feel their alcohol consumption isn’t optimum in relation to achieving everything they’d like to during each week.
If you need to clarify your ideal consumption levels, keep notes for a couple of weeks on what you drink and when, and then make a call on how many units a week and how many alcohol free nights works best for you.
2. Apply a reality check
Look at your schedule – family plans, work commitments and social life – and plan your desired alcohol consumption around all of these events to ensure you can enjoy life while remaining within the limits of what works for you.
3. Develop some micro strategies
Be clear ahead of all events, social gatherings and work functions what your limits are and what your non-alcoholic choices will be.
If you plan ahead of time to have one or two drinks and then move on to sparkling water or fruit juice, then this is what will happen.
If you simply have a vague intention to moderate your intake and just hope for the best, you may not end up with the result you’re looking for.
4. Anticipate distractions
Sometimes our best intentions are waylaid by the persuasive abilities of others, so if you suspect that peer pressure or the excitement of the moment may distract you from your best intentions, be ready with mental prompt that will keep you on track.
Remind yourself that you’ve chosen your limits based on what you’ve decided, with a clear head, will give you the best result over the medium term. Do not be distracted by what can be perceived as short-term extra pleasure.
If you think you’ll need one, have a reason to stop drinking or not to drink in the first place that you can share with others (driving, an early start in the morning). Explain this to those you’re with at the beginning of the night and they’ll respect your choice for the rest of the evening.
So whatever your desired level of alcohol consumption is, even if you're aiming to avoid it completely for a given period, make your plan and review it regularly to ensure you get the right result for you and your healthy living objectives.