Whether it’s at a social event or drinking a glass of wine after a busy day at work, it’s common for people to have a drink here and there. However, while the occasional drink isn’t life or death for everyone, alcohol can impact various functions in your body, including the consistency of your blood. So, today we ask: does alcohol thin your blood? And, if so, what are the consequences?
Yes, drinking alcohol can thin your blood because it prevents blood cells from sticking together and forming blood clots. This is why some researchers suggest that the occasional drink can actually lower your risk of ischemic strokes or strokes caused by blocked blood vessels.
However, this lack of blood clotting caused by alcohol could also potentially increase your risk for hemorrhagic strokes or strokes that occur when weak blood vessels burst. The risk of “bleeds” or bleeding strokes also increases as a result of heavy alcohol use.
For men, this means having more than four drinks a day, and for women, this means having more than three drinks a day. People who engage in alcohol abuse or struggle with an alcohol use disorder are also more prone to not only experiencing hemorrhagic strokes but may also struggle to heal from cuts or other injuries due to blood thinning.
When you’re injured, blood cells called platelets rush to the injury. Because they’re sticky, these cells clump together.
Blood platelets also release proteins called clotting factors that act as plugs to close the wound. Otherwise known as thrombosis, blood clotting is a vital step in healing from an injury.
However, blood clots can create problems when they form in or travel to the wrong places in the body, such as in an artery that supplies oxygen to the heart and brain.
When a blood clot blocks the flow of blood to your heart, a heart attack can occur. If a clot blocks blood flow into your brain, it can cause a stroke.
Blood clotting and alcohol abuse are linked for several reasons. Drinking reduces platelets in the blood, mainly by inhibiting blood cell production in the bone marrow.
Alcohol also makes the platelets you do have especially sticky, increasing the likelihood that they’ll clump together or clot. While drinking a glass of wine or two a day may not present any risks, having more than three alcoholic drinks daily could increase your risk for a stroke caused by hemorrhaging.
Although it’s usually recommended that you do not drink alcohol on blood thinners, the safest thing for you to do is to ask your doctor if it’s safe. Both alcohol and blood thinners like Coumadin can thin your blood, so taking them together may increase their anticoagulant effects to the point where it increases your risk of hemorrhaging or bleeding.
Alcohol can also slow down the rate at which your body breaks down and metabolizes your blood-thinner medication. This can lead to a serious build-up in your body and increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.
If your doctor does give you the okay to drink alcohol while taking blood thinners, do so in moderation. And even then, it’s best to avoid drinking while taking any medications.
With that being said, it’s also important to clarify that alcohol is not a replacement for blood thinners. Blood thinners are medications that your doctor prescribes to prevent blood clots that can lead to heart attack or stroke.
If you’ve been prescribed a blood thinner, it’s because you have heart disease or another condition that increases the rate of blood clotting in your body. Alcohol is not safe to use as a blood thinner.
Do not stop taking your blood-thinning medication to drink alcohol. Not only can doing so increase your risk of a bleeding stroke, but heavy alcohol use also increases your risk of:
When it comes to taking any medications, always be sure to speak to your doctor about drinking and using other medications.
As we mentioned earlier, thin blood can increase your risk of excessive bleeding and stroke. This can be especially dangerous for someone who’s taken blood thinners or has a heart condition.
To counter alcohol’s effects on the blood, your doctor may prescribe you blood-thickening medication. However, there are natural alternatives.
You can thicken your blood after drinking alcohol by consuming foods that are high in vitamin K. Vitamin K is a fat-soluble nutrient that got its name from the German term “koagulation.”
Due to its role in blood coagulation, vitamin K is known as the “clotting vitamin.” Vitamin K is also naturally made by bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract and is found in vegetables like raw brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage.
Keep in mind that you should not take any vitamins or supplements without speaking to your doctor. If you’re taking a blood-thinning medication, do not take vitamin K or any other supplements without consulting your doctor first.
Not only does alcohol thin your blood, but long-term alcohol abuse can also increase your risk of conditions ranging from diabetes to liver disease to cancer. If you’re struggling to control your drinking, then you may have a more serious problem.
If you need help recovering from an alcohol use disorder, Banyan Treatment Centers Stuart offers Florida alcohol detox and addiction treatment that focuses on both the physical and mental aspects of recovery. From 24-hour care for withdrawal symptoms to individual therapy sessions with our counselors, patients receive our assistance every step of the way.
If you or someone you care about is displaying signs of alcohol addiction, our substance abuse treatment center in Stuart, FL, is here to help. Banyan has been helping people with addictions in communities across the nation achieve long-term sobriety, and you can be one of them.