Drinking alcohol has myriad effects on blood coagulation. At least one drink per day may have the benefit of acting as a blood thinner and protect against clotting in clogged arteries, like aspirin. Thinning the blood can hasten bleeding from injured arteries, increasing the risk of bleeding strokes. It also interacts with prescription anticoagulants like warfarin (Coumadin).
Alcohol is a substance that many people drink responsibly yet others struggle with dependence or addiction from young to older people. For many reasons, people fall into the trap of addiction because it is a central nervous system depressant that can have relaxing effects. Alcohol also increases dopamine in the brain, one of the chemical messengers, or neurotransmitters, that helps regulate emotions and tells people when to feel pleasure. Alcohol can have desirable and pleasurable effects. Alcohol also has blood thinning effects. This makes it more risky to use when also paired with blood thinning medications that may be necessary for other health issues.
When a person has a moderate amount of alcohol, it is a balancing act. Drinking the right amount may be better for some health reasons than not drinking, but it is more dangerous than not drinking at all. This ‘J-curve’ is a two-edged sword with some benefits and some negative aspects.
Precautions with Blood Thinners
People who drink alcohol should be careful while taking anticoagulant blood thinners like Coumadin. The blood-thinning effects of alcohol can interact with those prescribed drugs. It is harder to find a correct dosage for blood thinner while drinking. As you are placed on blood thinners, it is best not to risk anything and have a drink. Other prescriptions can also have a negative impact. Some precautions should be taken while drinking and using blood thinners:
- Tell your doctor how much you drink
- Recognize how you feel as it may be related to your medication and alcohol
- Too little Coumadin in the blood does not protect you but too much risks bleeding
Some studies have shown moderate drinkers to have lower rates of heart disease, but higher rates of bleed-type strokes than abstainers. The contrasting effects of alcohol are similar to blood thinners like aspirin, which clearly prevent heart attacks at the expense of additional bleeding strokes.
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