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Why Your Face Turns Red When You Drink

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Do you take one sip of a drink only to have someone immediately point out how red your face is, which only makes your face redder from embarrassment? Well, it turns out there is a medical reason why.

If you are plagued by booze-induced rosy cheeks (and chest and knuckles and knees and arms), then you could have Alcohol Flush Reaction (AFR), a genetic deficiency that affects how the body breaks down an alcohol metabolite called acetaldehyde, according to Huffington Post. When you drink alcohol, acetaldehyde builds up in your bloodstream and causes your blood vessels to constrict, which in turn causes your blood pressure to rise since your blood vessels have to work harder to circulate blood throughout the body.

Under normal circumstances, your body would be able to break the acetaldehyde down into acetate, a salt disposed of through urination. However, those with AFR lack the enzyme needed to do that at the same pace as those who aren’t affected. So their bodies are stuck with the buildup longer and, as a result, their skin turns red.

While AFR usually isn’t serious (just seriously embarrassing), there are a few concerns that sometimes accompany this genetic deficiency. According to Men’s Health, men who turned red while drinking were twice as likely to develop high blood pressure later in life than men who did not. So be sure to check in with your doctor regularly if one beer leaves you flushed.

Some other symptoms of AFR aside from turning red can include heightened heart rate as well as headaches and nausea after just one or two drinks. It’s estimated that 500 million people worldwide have AFR, and while there’s no cure, there are a few things people affected by AFR can do to minimize these symptoms: Drink moderately, opt for low-proof drinks, eat food and drink plenty of water while imbibing alcohol. (Come to think of it, those are pretty good rules for any drinker to follow.)

In short, if you get red in the face when you have a drink, check with your doctor (just in case). But otherwise, the worst of your condition comes in the form of snide comments from your pals. Keep your spirits high and just wait for the summer, when everyone is sunburnt and on the same red-faced playing field as you.

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