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Does Alcohol Thin Your Blood?

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Does Alcohol Thin Your Blood?

Drinking alcohol may thin your blood because it prevents blood cells from clotting. This may reduce your risk for strokes that result from blood vessel blockages. 

However, this same mechanism may increase your risk of bleeding from strokes. This is especially true when you drink alcohol in large quantities.

How Much Alcohol Does it Take to Thin Your Blood?

A man’s blood typically thins if he drinks two or more drinks a day. For women, it is one or more drinks a day. Alcohol use, especially when it's excessive, can also introduce greater risks to your health.

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How Long Does Alcohol Thin Your Blood?

In people who enjoy moderate drinking, the blood-thinning effects of alcohol are short-lived. However, in people who drink heavily, the bleeding risk enhances, even if they have stopped drinking.

Does Alcohol Prevent Blood Clots?

Yes, alcohol can prevent blood clots. When you are injured, blood cells called platelets move to the injury area. These cells are sticky and cluster together. Platelets also deliver proteins called clotting factors that create a plug to close the hole.

Blood clotting is essential when you are injured. However, sometimes a blood clot can 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.

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

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How to Thicken Blood After Drinking Alcohol

Thin blood caused by disrupted clotting mechanisms can increase the risk of excessive bleeding. This can be especially dangerous during surgery as the blood is unable to clot correctly. Even small cuts and wounds may increase the risk of significant blood loss.

Your doctor can prescribe blood thickening medication, but you can also naturally thicken the blood by consuming certain foods.

To restore your blood's normal clotting functions, eat foods that are high in vitamin K. This fat-soluble nutrient is ideal for thickening or clotting blood. Its name comes from the German term ‘koagulation,’ and it is sometimes known as ‘the clotting vitamin’ due to its essential role in the blood coagulation process.

Vitamin K is created in the body by bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, and it is also found naturally in plenty of vegetables. One cup of raw brussels sprouts has around 156 micrograms of the vitamin. One cup of raw broccoli contains about 93 micrograms. One cup of raw cabbage has approximately 67 micrograms.

Other excellent vegetable sources for vitamin K include asparagus, cauliflower, leeks, dark leafy greens, and celery.

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Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Blood Thinners

If you are taking blood thinners, drinking alcohol at the same time can be dangerous.

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

Both alcohol and blood thinners can thin your blood. Taking both together could significantly increase your risk of bleeding. Alcohol may also slow down the rate at which your body breaks down and removes blood thinners, leading to a dangerous buildup of the drug.

Completely avoid drinking alcohol while taking blood thinners.

If you have chronic medical issues linked to either your liver or kidneys, it will affect the blood thinner's breakdown. This may make your blood too thin and place you at higher risk of life-threatening bleeding complications.

Even if your liver and kidneys usually function normally, alcohol can limit your liver’s capabilities in metabolizing other compounds. It can also restrict your kidneys in excreting the broken down drugs or toxins, such as your blood thinner. This can result in the same adverse effects of excessive anticoagulation.

Common Questions and Answers

How does alcohol negatively affect heart health?

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

How long does it take for alcohol to thin the blood?

It is best to avoid drinking alcohol for at least 48 hours before any surgery for your safety and well-being.

Does alcohol thin your blood before surgery?

Yes, alcohol can thin your blood before surgery. Consuming alcohol before surgery is a major risk. 

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 serious cases, it can jeopardize your life.

Is red wine good for blood clots?

Red wine contains a substance called Resveratrol. This is an antioxidant that 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 each day may reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke resulting from blockages in blood vessels, known as ischemic strokes. It is also linked to decreased blood pressure.

Which alcohol is good for blood circulation?

No alcohol is considered "good" for blood circulation. Some people may choose to drink vodka instead of other alcoholic beverages due to its stereotype of being a low-calorie drink.

Updated on January 13, 2022
7 sources cited
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  2. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, December 2020, https://health.gov/our-work/nutrition-physical-activity/dietary-guidelines/previous-dietary-guidelines/2015 
  3. Ballard, H S. “The hematological complications of alcoholism.” Alcohol health and research world vol. 21,1 : 42-52, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15706762/ 
  4. Alcohol Use and Your Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), December 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm 
  5. Mukamal, Kenneth J et al. “Alcohol consumption and platelet activation and aggregation among women and men: the Framingham Offspring Study.” Alcoholism, clinical and experimental research vol. 29,10 : 1906-12, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16269922/ 
  6. Renaud, S C, and J C Ruf. “Effects of alcohol on platelet functions.” Clinica chimica acta; international journal of clinical chemistry vol. 246,1-2 : 77-89, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8814972/ 
  7. What are the risks?, Rethinking drinking, Alcohol and your health, http://www.rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/How-much-is-too-much/Whats-the-harm/What-Are-The-Consequences.aspx

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