Alcohol is a relaxant and, so, it makes sense that we might assume it relaxes our heart rate and our blood pressure, too. There’s also a wealth of thought out there that says that drinking alcohol in low quantities can be good for our heart health although, as Johns Hopkins Medicine points out, it’s hard to determine the cause and effect from the studies that show this.
When it comes to the link between alcohol and blood pressure, however, it’s more complicated, and not altogether a happy picture. As the Mayo Clinic points out, drinking more than three drinks in one sitting can cause your blood pressure to rise temporarily. Doing this repeatedly, however, or binge drinking in more excessive quantities, can cause longer-term increases. If you already have high blood pressure and are taking medication for it, drinking can also interact with them, causing complications.
While you might be thinking “sure, but a little bit can’t hurt my blood pressure, right?”, that may not even be the case. A recent study of more than 17,000 people found that even moderate alcohol consumption can notably increase your risk of hypertension, with ‘moderate’ defined as consuming seven to 13 drinks per week, as Science Daily reports.
Drink: Skim milk
It might not be the first drink you think of when it comes to controlling high blood pressure, but skim milk could be your greatest ally in keeping hypertension at bay. Low-fat dairy foodstuffs, like skim milk and low-fat yogurt, are essential to the DASH diet — a regimen designed to keep blood pressure down — according to Healthline. Their usefulness in the fight to keep blood pressure controlled is shown in a large-scale study with almost 45,000 participants, published in the Journal of Human Hypertension. The study showed that consuming low-fat dairy products like skim milk seemed to go in line with a 16% reduction in the risk of elevated blood pressure.
High-fat dairy products, on the other hand, seemed to show no association with reduction of risk, as the study shows. The study goes on to state that these findings support the dietary recommendations in the U.S. to consume low-fat dairy products for two to three servings per day. As the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 states, consuming low- or non-fat dairy products as part of a varied diet is generally associated with better health outcomes across the board.
Drink: Pomegranate juice
Eating pomegranates can be fiddly business, with the endless seed-scooping you have to undertake. By opting for pomegranate juice instead, you can get many of the benefits of the fruit without the hassle, and your blood pressure will thank you for it. Pomegranates and their juice are high in antioxidants called anthocyanins, explains registered dietitian and nutrition teacher Sarah Pflugradt to Eating Well. These antioxidants can provide a bevy of benefits, particularly in the reduction of low-grade chronic inflammation, which Pflugradt says “is known to be a root cause of many chronic conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.”
Pomegranate juice’s potential effect on blood pressure in particular has been well-observed in several recent studies, says Pflugradt. One study, published in Clinical Nutrition, followed patients who drank pomegranate juice over a period of three years. The study found that not only did drinking pomegranate juice seem to contribute towards the reduction of LDL cholesterol, but blood pressure was reduced by 12% in patients after just one year of drinking the juice. While this was a small study, reviews in Complimentary Therapies in Clinical Practice have noted similar associations.