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Facial Flushing From Alcohol Linked With High Blood Pressure

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People whose faces flush red from drinking alcohol could be at an increased risk for high blood pressure, a new study suggests.

The research, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, shows that people whose faces flush after drinking alcohol have a lower threshold for developing hypertension, as well as a higher general risk for developing hypertension.

"Facial flushing after drinking is always considered as a symptom of high alcohol sensitivity or even intolerance to alcohol, unless a patient is taking special medicine," study researcher Jong Sung Kim, the head of the family medicine department at Chungnam National University School of Medicine, said in a statement. "The facial flushing response to drinking usually occurs in a person who cannot genetically break down acetaldehyde, the first metabolite of alcohol."

For the study, researchers looked at medical information from 1,763 men. Of those men, 288 didn't drink alcohol, 527 had faces that flushed when drinking alcohol, and 948 drank alcohol but didn't experience facial flushing. Researchers compared their hypertension risks and found that people whose faces flushed in response to drinking alcohol had a higher risk of hypertension when they drank more than four glasses of alcohol a week. Comparatively, those whose faces didn't flush in response to alcohol had the higher risk of hypertension when they drank more than eight glasses of alcohol per week. These findings held true after taking into account other hypertension risk factors such as age, exercise status, smoking status and body mass index.

Facial flushing from drinking alcohol is especially common among Asians, with one study pointing out that about a third of Japanese, Chinese and Korean people have this response to alcohol. It's caused by a deficiency in the aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 enzyme.

Previously, a study in PLOS ONE Medicine showed that people who have this facial flushing response from alcohol consumption could also face a higher risk of esophageal cancer.

 
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