Alcohol & Health
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Updated on February 3, 2023
5 min read

Does Alcohol Thin Your Blood?

Drinking alcohol may thin your blood because it prevents blood cells from clotting. It may reduce your risk for strokes caused by blood vessel blockages.

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

How Does Alcohol Thin Your Blood?

Alcohol can act as an anticoagulant in small amounts. When you are injured, blood cells called platelets move to the injury area.

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 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 blood cell production in the bone marrow. This process makes the platelets less sticky and less likely to form blood clots.

How Much Alcohol Does it Take to Thin Your Blood?

A man’s blood typically thins if he drinks two or more daily. For women, it is one or more drinks a day. 

How Long Does Alcohol Thin Your Blood?

For people who enjoy moderate drinking, the blood-thinning effects of alcohol are short-lived.

Alcohol leaves the bloodstream at an average rate of about 0.015 g per hour. If you have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 g, it will take about 5.5 hours to flush the alcohol from your system.8

Does Alcohol Prevent Blood Clots?

Yes, alcohol can prevent blood clots. It reduces the number of platelets in your blood and makes your existing platelets less sticky. This process makes blood thinner, reducing the chance of a blood clot.

Long-Term Effects of Alcohol on the Blood

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

  • High blood pressure
  • Liver disease
  • Stoke
  • Heart disease
  • Digestive issues
  • Cancer
  • Weakened immune system
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How to Thicken Blood After Drinking Alcohol

Thin blood can increase the risk of excessive bleeding. It can be especially dangerous during surgery as the blood cannot clot. Minor cuts and wounds may increase the risk of significant blood loss.

Your doctor can prescribe blood-thickening medication, but you can also 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 create vitamin K. It is also found naturally in plenty of vegetables, 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.

Can You Drink Alcohol with Blood Thinners?

Doctors strongly advise against drinking alcohol on blood thinners. Doing this can increase the risk of severe bleeding during an accident or after an injury.

Never use alcohol to replace blood thinners. Blood thinners are medications specifically designed to prevent blood clots from happening.

Although alcohol does thin 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 both together could significantly increase your risk of bleeding.

Taking alcohol and blood thinners 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 is 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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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

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, which affects the heart muscle.

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.

What can help protect against 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 is also linked to decreased 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

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Updated on February 3, 2023
8 sources cited
Updated on February 3, 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. 
  2. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2020. 
  3. Alcohol Use and Your Health.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),  2020.
  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.” Rethinking Drinking. 
  6. Non-alcoholic red wine may lower blood pressure.” Harvard Health Publishing, 2012.
  7. Piano, MR. “Alcohol's Effects on the Cardiovascular System.” Alcohol Res, 2017.
  8. Alcohol Metabolism.” BGSU, Department of Recreation and Wellness.

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