Drinkers in the North East are being warned about the risks of developing high blood pressure - which is linked to stroke, heart disease and vascular dementia.
The warning came yesterday - World Hypertension Day - and 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 without knowing it.
Hypertension - persistently high blood pressure - affects more than 25% of adults in England and around 13 million people are thought to be living with the condition, five million of those 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 it.
Research shows regularly drinking alcohol increases the risk of developing hypertension and national guidelines suggest people drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week.
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.”
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.”