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Alcohol and Health

Does Alcohol Thin Your Blood or Affect Cholesterol Levels?

Published:
October 26, 2023
·
8 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
October 26, 2023
·
8 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
October 26, 2023
·
8 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
October 26, 2023
·
8 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Reframe Content Team
October 26, 2023
·
8 min read

Most of us have heard this claim at some point: a glass of red wine a day keeps the doctor away. The science behind this has to do with resveratrol, a heart-friendly antioxidant found in red wine — well, in the grapes that are used to make it, to be exact. But when it comes to alcohol and our bodies, there's more to the story than meets the glass. So, does alcohol really thin our blood and help our cholesterol levels? Let’s find out!

The Body’s Boozy Balancing Act

Our bodies are fantastic at staying in balance, including maintaining the viscosity — or thickness — of our blood. Alcohol, however, tends to make our blood thinner — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, at least from one perspective.

Alcohol inhibits platelet aggregation: it prevents the sticky bits in our blood from clumping together. It's like pouring a bit of oil into a jar of honey — it just makes everything slide around a bit easier. Alcohol also increases fibrinolysis, the process that breaks down clots.

Person holding glass of red liquid

So, yes, alcohol can thin our blood, but there's a catch: these effects are temporary and, worse, inconsistent. It's not a predictable, steady influence — you just never know what you're going to get.

Alcohol and Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that your body needs to build cells. But too much of a good thing can be detrimental. There are two types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL is the "bad" cholesterol that can build up in the walls of your arteries, while HDL is the "good" kind that takes the bad variety back to your liver to be broken down.

Moderate alcohol consumption — particularly red wine (there's our friend resveratrol again) — has been associated with increasing levels of HDL or "good" cholesterol. But don't get too excited! While it's true that higher HDL levels can be beneficial, the rise from moderate alcohol consumption is likely not be enough to impact your heart disease risk significantly. Plus, any potential benefits must be weighed against the potential harms, including misuse, liver disease, heart disease, and more.

Excessive alcohol consumption, on the other hand, can have quite a negative impact on your cholesterol levels. It can increase both your bad LDL cholesterol and triglycerides — a type of fat in your blood. When your body has too much of these, they can build up on the inside of your arteries, narrowing them and increasing your risk for heart disease and stroke.

 An image depicting the impact of alcohol on cholesterol levels in the body

Booze and Blood: A Cautionary Tale

While all this “blood thinning” might sound like a good thing — who doesn't want free-flowing, clot-free blood? — we need to remember that our body is well-equipped to maintain balance, and disrupting its natural rhythm can lead to unpleasant side effects.

Likewise, alcohol, in moderation, might have some effects on cholesterol, but it's not a magic bullet, and overdoing it can actually cause more harm than good. And remember, there are many other, more effective ways to manage your cholesterol levels and protect your heart health — for example, a healthy diet, regular exercise, and not smoking.

Too much alcohol can lead to irregular heart rhythms, increased heart rate, and high blood pressure. It's like cranking the stereo to full blast — it might feel great for a moment, but it won't be long before the neighbors (or, in this case, our bodies) start complaining.

Moreover, chronic heavy drinking weakens the heart muscle and causes it to be less efficient in pumping blood — a condition called alcoholic cardiomyopathy. And that’s definitely not something we want.

Cutting Back?

If you're looking to cut back on alcohol, that’s fantastic! We're rooting for you! Here are some practical steps to take:

  • Understand your triggers. Understand what makes you reach for that drink — is it stress, peer pressure, or boredom? Identifying your triggers can help you find healthier alternatives.
  • Have a plan. Going into a social situation where alcohol is present? Create a plan. Decide on your drink limit before you go, and stick to it. And remember, it's okay to say no.
  • Mindful drinking. Savor your drink, and enjoy it slowly. You'll often find that you drink less when you're paying attention and consciously enjoying your beverage.
  • Healthy alternatives. Find other, healthier ways to cope with stress. Choose activities that help you unwind, such as yoga, meditation, or reading a good book.
  • Get support. Reach out to friends, family, or support groups. It's always easier when you've got a team cheering you on.

Remember, cutting back or quitting alcohol is a personal decision and can be challenging. Seek professional help if you need it. We're all in this together, and we believe in you!

Most of us have heard this claim at some point: a glass of red wine a day keeps the doctor away. The science behind this has to do with resveratrol, a heart-friendly antioxidant found in red wine — well, in the grapes that are used to make it, to be exact. But when it comes to alcohol and our bodies, there's more to the story than meets the glass. So, does alcohol really thin our blood and help our cholesterol levels? Let’s find out!

The Body’s Boozy Balancing Act

Our bodies are fantastic at staying in balance, including maintaining the viscosity — or thickness — of our blood. Alcohol, however, tends to make our blood thinner — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, at least from one perspective.

Alcohol inhibits platelet aggregation: it prevents the sticky bits in our blood from clumping together. It's like pouring a bit of oil into a jar of honey — it just makes everything slide around a bit easier. Alcohol also increases fibrinolysis, the process that breaks down clots.

Person holding glass of red liquid

So, yes, alcohol can thin our blood, but there's a catch: these effects are temporary and, worse, inconsistent. It's not a predictable, steady influence — you just never know what you're going to get.

Alcohol and Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that your body needs to build cells. But too much of a good thing can be detrimental. There are two types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL is the "bad" cholesterol that can build up in the walls of your arteries, while HDL is the "good" kind that takes the bad variety back to your liver to be broken down.

Moderate alcohol consumption — particularly red wine (there's our friend resveratrol again) — has been associated with increasing levels of HDL or "good" cholesterol. But don't get too excited! While it's true that higher HDL levels can be beneficial, the rise from moderate alcohol consumption is likely not be enough to impact your heart disease risk significantly. Plus, any potential benefits must be weighed against the potential harms, including misuse, liver disease, heart disease, and more.

Excessive alcohol consumption, on the other hand, can have quite a negative impact on your cholesterol levels. It can increase both your bad LDL cholesterol and triglycerides — a type of fat in your blood. When your body has too much of these, they can build up on the inside of your arteries, narrowing them and increasing your risk for heart disease and stroke.

 An image depicting the impact of alcohol on cholesterol levels in the body

Booze and Blood: A Cautionary Tale

While all this “blood thinning” might sound like a good thing — who doesn't want free-flowing, clot-free blood? — we need to remember that our body is well-equipped to maintain balance, and disrupting its natural rhythm can lead to unpleasant side effects.

Likewise, alcohol, in moderation, might have some effects on cholesterol, but it's not a magic bullet, and overdoing it can actually cause more harm than good. And remember, there are many other, more effective ways to manage your cholesterol levels and protect your heart health — for example, a healthy diet, regular exercise, and not smoking.

Too much alcohol can lead to irregular heart rhythms, increased heart rate, and high blood pressure. It's like cranking the stereo to full blast — it might feel great for a moment, but it won't be long before the neighbors (or, in this case, our bodies) start complaining.

Moreover, chronic heavy drinking weakens the heart muscle and causes it to be less efficient in pumping blood — a condition called alcoholic cardiomyopathy. And that’s definitely not something we want.

Cutting Back?

If you're looking to cut back on alcohol, that’s fantastic! We're rooting for you! Here are some practical steps to take:

  • Understand your triggers. Understand what makes you reach for that drink — is it stress, peer pressure, or boredom? Identifying your triggers can help you find healthier alternatives.
  • Have a plan. Going into a social situation where alcohol is present? Create a plan. Decide on your drink limit before you go, and stick to it. And remember, it's okay to say no.
  • Mindful drinking. Savor your drink, and enjoy it slowly. You'll often find that you drink less when you're paying attention and consciously enjoying your beverage.
  • Healthy alternatives. Find other, healthier ways to cope with stress. Choose activities that help you unwind, such as yoga, meditation, or reading a good book.
  • Get support. Reach out to friends, family, or support groups. It's always easier when you've got a team cheering you on.

Remember, cutting back or quitting alcohol is a personal decision and can be challenging. Seek professional help if you need it. We're all in this together, and we believe in you!

Start Your Journey to Better Health With Reframe!

Looking to give your body and mind — including your circulatory system — a little (or not so little) vacation from alcohol? The Reframe app is here and ready to be your sidekick! While it's not a cure for alcohol use disorder (AUD), it’s a handy helper that guides you to reconsider alcohol's role in your life. Hundreds of thousands of people worldwide have found our science-backed approach helpful in managing their drinking, and we're stoked you can, too!

Reframe is all about giving you the skills and tools not just to get by with less alcohol, but to thrive and feel fantastic along the way. We provide daily readings that make sense of the science behind alcohol, as well as an in-app Toolkit filled with helpful resources and activities to help you tackle any obstacles on your path.

Join our global community of Reframers on our 24/7 Forum chat. It's your chance to draw motivation from folks worldwide who get what you're going through. Plus, you can chat with our certified coaches for advice and guidance tailored to you.

We're always adding new features to enhance your experience with our app. The newest is Melody — an in-app chatbot powered by top-notch AI technology. She’s all set to support you as you journey towards a life with less booze — or even none at all. And there's more! Each month, we roll out exciting challenges like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. Join in with fellow Reframers or fly solo — it's all up to you!

Curious? Give the Reframe app a whirl with a free seven-day trial. There's nothing to lose, so why not dive in? If you’re up for discovering what life beyond alcohol looks like, download our app today!

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At Reframe, we do science, not stigma. We base our articles on the latest peer-reviewed research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science. We follow the Reframe Content Creation Guidelines, to ensure that we share accurate and actionable information with our readers. This aids them in making informed decisions on their wellness journey.
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