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Updated on December 9, 2022

Does Alcohol Thin Your Blood?

Alcohol can thin your blood by preventing blood cells from sticking together and creating clots. This may reduce your risk for the type of strokes occurring from blockages in blood vessels.

Because of this effect, drinking alcohol may increase the risk for hemorrhagic stroke. This is especially true if you drink alcohol in large quantities.1

Alcohol will also interact with prescription anticoagulants like Coumadin (warfarin). Alcohol use can also pose other risks to your health, especially in excess.

How Much Alcohol Does it Take to Thin Your Blood?

Drinking a glass or two of wine daily may reduce your risk for heart disease and strokes resulting from blood vessel blockage (ischemic strokes). However, drinking more than three alcoholic beverages daily could increase your risk for hemorrhagic strokes.

Why Does Alcohol Thin Your Blood?

When you’re injured, blood cells called platelets move to the injury site. Platelets are sticky and clump together. They also release proteins called clotting factors, creating a plug to close the hole.

Clotting is beneficial and necessary when you’re injured. However, sometimes a blood clot can form in or move to an artery that provides your heart or brain with oxygen-rich blood.

Thrombosis occurs when blood clots. When a clot stops blood flow to your heart, it can lead to a heart attack. If a clot blocks the blood flow to your brain, it can result in a stroke.

Alcohol interferes with clotting in a couple of ways. It reduces platelets in the blood partly by interfering with blood cell production in the bone marrow, making them less sticky.

Short-Term Effects of Alcohol on Blood

For people who drink alcohol moderately, its effect on platelets is short. 

Moderate drinking is classified as:

  • For women of all ages: up to one drink per day 
  • For men 65 or older: up to one drink per day 
  • For men younger than 65: up to two drinks per day

Examples of one drink include: 

  • A 12-ounce beer 
  • A 5-ounce glass of wine 
  • 1.5 fluid ounces, or a shot, of liquor

Long-Term Effects of Alcohol on Blood

However, heavy drinkers can have rebound health effects in which the bleeding risk increases. This is even after they’ve stopped drinking. Exceeding the suggested guidelines above is considered heavy drinking.


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How to Thicken Your Blood if Alcohol Has Thinned It

Thin blood resulting from disrupted clotting can increase the risk of excessive bleeding. This can be particularly dangerous during surgery as the blood can’t clot properly. Even small wounds and cuts can increase the risk of blood loss.

Your doctor may prescribe you blood-thickening medication. You can also naturally thicken your blood by eating certain foods.

Consider eating foods high in vitamin K. This fat-soluble nutrient is ideal for thickening or clotting blood. It’s sometimes known as the ‘clotting vitamin’ thanks to its essential role in the blood coagulation process. 

Vitamin K is produced in the body by bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. 

It’s also found naturally in many vegetables:

  • One cup of raw brussels sprouts contains around 156 micrograms
  • One cup of raw broccoli contains around 93 micrograms
  • One cup of raw cabbage contains around 67 micrograms

Does Alcohol Prevent Blood Clots?

Yes, alcohol may prevent blood clots. 

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

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Can You Drink Alcohol While Taking Blood Thinners?

You should reduce alcohol consumption while taking anticoagulant blood thinners like Coumadin (warfarin). Alcohol may increase the risk of bleeding with this prescribed drug.2 Taking both drugs together could compound the anticoagulant effect.

Alcohol might also reduce the rate at which your body breaks down and removes the blood-thinning drug. This can result in a dangerous buildup of the drug in your body.

It may also be more challenging for your healthcare providers to work out the correct dosage for the prescribed blood thinner if you drink alcohol. 

Consider asking your doctor if it’s safe to drink while taking blood thinners. If you decide to drink alcohol while on blood thinners, do so in moderation.

You should also consider any other prescriptions you take. Sometimes medications interact with blood thinners and alcohol. Follow the precautions and avoid drinking alcohol.

Likewise, if you need anticoagulation to reduce health risks, don’t consider drinking alcohol as a substitute for prescribed blood thinners. When your doctor prescribes a drug like Coumadin, you’ll also have your blood tested to ensure you’re getting the correct amount of blood thinning.
Too little, and you aren’t protected. Too much, and you risk bleeding.3

Call to find out how much your insurance will cover
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  1. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, August 2021 
  2. Roth, Joshua A et al. “Alcohol misuse, genetics, and major bleeding among warfarin therapy patients in a community setting.” Pharmacoepidemiology and drug safety vol. 24,6 : 619-27
  3. Diagnosis and Treatment of Venous Thromboembolism, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), February 2020
  4. Dimmitt, S B et al. “The effects of alcohol on coagulation and fibrinolytic factors: a controlled trial.” Blood coagulation & fibrinolysis: an international journal in hemostasis and thrombosis vol. 9,1 : 39-45
  5. Eismann, Hendrik et al. “Influence of alcohol consumption on blood coagulation in rotational thromboelastometry (ROTEM): an in-vivo study.” Korean journal of anesthesiology vol. 73,4 : 334-341
  6. Olsen, H, and B Osterud. “Effects of ethanol on human blood fibrinolysis and coagulation.” Alcohol and alcoholism (Oxford, Oxfordshire). Supplement vol. 1 : 591-4.

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