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Updated on July 31, 2023
5 min read

Does Alcohol Thin Your Blood?

Drinking alcohol may thin your blood by preventing blood cells from clotting (thrombosis). It may reduce your risk for strokes that blood vessel blockages cause.

However, this exact mechanism may increase your risk of bleeding from strokes. It’s especially true when you drink alcohol in large quantities.

How Does Alcohol Thin Your Blood?

Thick blood (hypercoagulability) stops oxygen, hormones, and nutrients from moving smoothly throughout your body. It also leads to blood clotting, which prevents you from bleeding out.

The effects of alcohol interfere with the blood clotting process. It reduces the number of platelets in the blood, partly affecting blood cell production in the bone marrow. This process makes the platelets less sticky and less likely to form blood clots.

Blood Clotting: A Lifesaver and a Potential Threat

Blood cells, called platelets, move to the injured area of the body when you’re cut or bruised. These cells are sticky and cluster together and work to stop bleeding. Platelets also deliver proteins called clotting factors that create a plug to close a wound.

Blood clotting is essential when you’re injured. However, a blood clot can sometimes develop in, or travel to, an artery that delivers oxygen-rich blood to your heart or brain.

When a blood clot blocks the blood flow to your heart, it can lead to a heart attack. If it prevents the blood flow to your brain, it can result in a stroke.

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How Much Alcohol Does it Take to Thin Your Blood?

For moderate drinkers, the blood-thinning effects of alcohol are short-lived. Alcohol leaves the bloodstream at an average rate of about 0.015 g per hour.

A man’s blood typically thins if he drinks two (two ounces of liquor) or more daily. For women, it’s one (one ounce of liquor) or more drinks a day. These amounts may vary, depending on a person’s alcohol tolerance.

If you have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 g, it will generally take about 5.5 hours to flush the alcohol from your system.8

Does Alcohol Have Long-Term Effects on Blood?

Heavy drinking is connected to illnesses that lead to poor health, including heart conditions. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to high blood pressure, heart failure, or stroke. It can also contribute to cardiomyopathy, which affects the heart muscle.

Misusing alcohol long-term can result in several adverse side effects. Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to chronic illnesses and other serious problems, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Liver disease
  • Heart disease
  • Digestive issues
  • Cancer
  • Weakened immune system
  • Alcohol dependence
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Can You Drink Alcohol While on Blood Thinners?

No, doctors strongly advise against drinking alcohol on blood thinners. Doing this can increase the risk of severe bleeding due to an accident or injury.

Never use alcohol to replace blood thinners. Blood thinners are medications that prevent blood clots from occurring. Although alcohol thins your blood, drinking instead of taking medication can be dangerous.

Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Blood Thinners

Both alcohol and blood thinners can thin your blood. Taking these substances simultaneously could significantly increase your risk of bleeding. They can:

  • Increase your risk of bleeding complications
  • Slow down the rate at which your body can break down blood thinners, which can lead to a dangerous build-up of the drug
  • Reduce the liver’s and kidney’s ability to metabolize compounds
  • Restrict your kidneys' ability to excrete the broken-down drugs or toxins, resulting in excessive anticoagulation

Always ask your doctor if it’s safe for you to consume alcohol while taking blood thinners. If you must drink alcohol while taking blood thinners, do so in moderation.

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How to Thicken Blood After Drinking Alcohol

You can thicken blood by consuming foods high in vitamin K. This fat-soluble nutrient is ideal for thickening or clotting blood. Bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract naturally create vitamin K, but it’s also present in other sources.

Plenty of vegetables are rich in vitamin K, including:

  • Asparagus
  • Cauliflower
  • Leeks
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Celery

One cup of raw Brussels sprouts has around 156 micrograms of vitamin K. One cup of raw broccoli contains about 93 micrograms. One cup of raw cabbage has approximately 67 micrograms.

Besides taking in Vitamin K-rich foods, your doctor can prescribe blood-thickening medication to manage your condition.

Frequently Asked Questions on Blood Thinning and Alcohol

Does Alcohol Prevent Blood Clots?

Yes, alcohol can prevent blood clots. In small amounts, alcohol can act as an anticoagulant, reducing blood's ability to clot and causing it to start thinning.

Does Alcohol Thin Your Blood Before Surgery?

Consuming alcohol before surgery is a significant risk because it can thin your blood. Alcohol consumption can lead to severe complications both during and after surgery. It can result in a longer hospital stay and an extended recovery time. In more severe cases, it can jeopardize your life.

How Can I Reduce Blood Clots?

Red wine contains a substance called resveratrol. This antioxidant may reduce harmful cholesterol levels and minimize the risk of blood clots.

Antioxidants, called polyphenols, may help protect the lining of blood vessels in the heart. Drinking a glass or two of non-alcoholic red wine may reduce your risk for heart disease.

Red wine can also reduce the risk of stroke from blood vessel blockages. This kind of stroke is known as an ischemic stroke. Red wine can also decrease blood pressure.6

Which Alcohol Is Good For Blood Circulation?

Doctors strongly advise against using alcohol to improve blood circulation. However, some alcohol, such as vodka or red wine, has been shown to increase blood flow, nerve activity, and heart rate in small doses.7

Summary

In small doses, alcohol had a blood thinning effect to reduce blood clotting. However, it’s not a viable alternative to prescribed blood thinners.

Alcohol’s blood-thinning effects typically won’t last longer than a day, but the severity of its effects may vary. Using blood thinners and alcohol together can lead to disastrous health complications like compromising the liver and promoting excessive bleeding.

It’s best to consult your doctor about when and what you can drink while on blood thinning medication.

Updated on July 31, 2023
8 sources cited
Updated on July 31, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. How alcohol affects your health.” Nidirect.gov.
  2. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2020. 
  3. Alcohol Use and Your Health.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),  2022.
  4. Mukamal et al. “Alcohol consumption and platelet activation and aggregation among women and men: the Framingham Offspring Study.” Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research, 2005.
  5. What are the risks? Rethinking drinking.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
  6. Non-alcoholic red wine may lower blood pressure.” Harvard Health Publishing, 2012.
  7. Piano, M. “Alcohol's Effects on the Cardiovascular System.” Alcohol Res, 2017.
  8. Bowling Green State University. “Alcohol Metabolism.” Department of Recreation and Wellness.
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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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