There are a number of factors that determine how dangerous alcohol consumption is while taking blood thinners. These factors are different for everyone.
For the most part, moderate alcohol consumption is safe for people while taking blood thinners as long as they have no major medical problems and are in overall good health. It’s important to confirm this with a healthcare professional.
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If you have chronic medical problems associated with either your liver or kidneys, these organs will affect the metabolism (or breakdown) of the blood thinner. This may make your blood too thin and put you at a higher risk of life threatening bleeding complications.
Even if you have a normally functioning liver and kidneys, alcohol can limit your liver’s ability to metabolize other compounds.
It can also limit your kidneys’ ability to excrete broken-down toxins or drugs, such as your prescribed blood thinner. This can lead to the same harmful effect of excessive anticoagulation.
Being on any blood thinner will increase your risk of bleeding. Traumatic injuries are one of the most common causes of bleeding, but sometimes you can bleed spontaneously.
Red flags include a large amount of visible blood loss:
Get immediate emergency medical care to stop massive bleeding. Medical staff can also help resuscitate anyone who’s experienced extreme blood loss.
There are rare circumstances of internal bleeding that may or may not be associated with a traumatic injury. They can be hard to identify and act on since they may not be obvious at first, but injuries to the head are high risk and should be examined by a healthcare professional.
Common symptoms of internal bleeding include:
Severely low blood pressure is a medical emergency. Get emergency medical care immediately if you or someone else has symptoms of severely low blood pressure.
When little blood vessels get injured from everyday activities, you may also notice small bruises appear on your skin. This isn’t usually a major concern unless they’re extensive or the discoloration seems extreme.
Many experts believe moderate alcohol consumption has notable and significant health benefits, but not everyone agrees. There are a number of risks associated with any amount of alcohol consumption.
This literature review is the foundation of the current alcohol consumption guidelines.
The lowest risk of CAD deaths was found in people consuming approximately one to two alcoholic equivalents. A more neutral effect was found with stroke deaths and non-fatal strokes.
There’s more than one kind of blood thinner, and they work in different pathways within the body.
One of the oldest blood thinners still in widespread use is warfarin (Coumadin). Of all the blood thinners available today, warfarin is most strongly affected by excessive alcohol consumption. However, moderate consumption doesn’t significantly affect the metabolism of warfarin.
Within the last few years, a new class of blood thinners was developed. They offer a number of benefits over warfarin, but they do have some disadvantages. Speak with a healthcare professional about the benefits and risks.
Of these relatively new blood thinners, there are:
- direct thrombin inhibitors, such as dabigatran (Pradaxa)
- factor Xa inhibitors, such as apixaban (Eliquis), edoxaban (Savaysa), and rivaroxaban (Xarelto)
Their mechanism of action isn’t affected by alcohol consumption. It’s relatively safe to consume alcohol as long as you’re in good overall health and have confirmed with a healthcare professional.
Talk with a healthcare professional to find out which blood thinner you qualify for.
It’s not recommended that you start drinking alcohol if you don’t normally. Having the restraint to consume only moderate amounts of alcohol may be challenging for some individuals.
For those who have a problem with alcohol use disorder, there are resources and tools to help reduce alcohol intake. The
If you know you’re vulnerable to alcohol misuse, try not to put yourself in an environment that will encourage excessive intake.
Of course, healthcare professionals are here to assist and support you along the way.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on March 13, 2019. Its current publication date reflects a medical review.
Dr. Harb Harb is a non-invasive cardiologist working within the Northwell Health System in New York, specifically at the North Shore University Hospital, affiliated with Hofstra University. He completed medical school at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine in Iowa City, Iowa, internal medicine at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, and cardiovascular medicine at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, Michigan. Dr. Harb moved to New York City, choosing a career path in academic medicine as an assistant professor at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell. There, he teaches and works with cardiovascular and medical trainees as well as medical students. He is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology (FACC) and American board-certified in general cardiology, echocardiography, and stress-testing, and nuclear cardiology. He is a registered physician in vascular interpretation (RPVI). Lastly, he obtained graduate education in public health and business administration to contribute to national healthcare reform research and implementation.