There is a class of medication commonly referred to as blood thinners. What specifically are they?
Sometimes using the term blood-thinner to define their function may be somewhat misleading. The modus operandi is not truly a thinning of your blood. Rather, these medicines reduce clot formations in your arteries and veins. Officially these medications are called anticoagulants and are prescribed to those at risk for blood clots. Additionally, these medications can stop existing blood clots from getting larger thus allowing better blood flow in the arteries, veins, and heart. Blood clots occuring in vessels and organs can lead to strokes, heart attacks, or blockages affecting blood supply and causing tissue damage to the organs. If a patient is at higher risk for conditions such as stroke, atrial fibrillation, congenital heart defects, blood vessel diseases, or has undergone heart valve replacements, they might be recommended to take blood thinners. Additionally, they may be prescribed after surgeries during the recovery period to limit the risk of clots while the patient is inactive.
There are valuable tips for you to know
Here is a list of essential tips that may help to guide you when prescribed blood thinners. Be sure to take only the dosage prescribed by your doctor. Taking the wrong amount of these medications can bring about serious consequences.
- Missed doses: If you have missed your dose consult with your physician. Do not double up on your next dose as doing so can be dangerous and increase the risk of a serious bleeding incident.
- Bleeding gums: Use soft bristles toothbrushes instead of medium or firm to decrease excess bleeding. Firmer bristles are most likely to aggravate irritated tissues.
- Extreme exercise: Avoid extreme or high impact exercise that may increase the risk of lacerations, breaks, or contusions. You must understand that such injuries will bleed more than they would if you were not on anticoagulants. Severe contusions may bleed excessively underneath the skin.
- Sharp objects, work, and cleaning: Avoid using sharp objects. When you must use them, please wear safety gloves whenever possible. Bladed devices should ideally be electronically controlled and guarded to help reduce risks of cuts. If you must mow the lawn, garden, do construction work, or anything similarly physical you should wear thick shoes or boots and other safety gear.
- Sporting activities: Do not engage in sporting activities deemed dangerous by your doctor. These activities may include horseback riding, surfing, weightlifting, rock climbing, martial arts, and many more. Always check with your doctor.
- Emergencies: If you are often alone or need to be alone for an extended period of time, a medical alert bracelet is highly recommended. If you have an accident that renders you unable to speak, wearing a medical alert bracelet will inform first responders that you are at risk of excess bleeding and they will act accordingly. Make sure to have a list of your current medications readily available on your phone or in your wallet.
- Falls/injuries: When you have fallen or had an accidental injury, you should call your doctor as soon as possible and have a checkup. Do this to ensure that there are no dangerous hidden bleeds underneath your skin. These bleeds can be especially dangerous and can happen even when there is no obvious laceration or noticeable bruising.
Drug history: Be certain that all of your physicians are aware that you are taking anticoagulants and know your complete drug history to prevent dangerous medication interactions. Over-the-counter medications: Do not purchase or take any over-the-counter medications such as vitamins/supplements without speaking to your doctor about them first and have been told they are safe for you. Some drugs, herbs, and over the counter remedies can cause serious problems when taken by someone who is on anticoagulants ranging from increasing bleed risks to making the medicine ineffective or worse. Alcohol use: Speak with your doctor before partaking of alcohol to determine risk. Alcohol use may increase your risk of accidental injury or interact with your medication.
Worrisome symptoms: If you find yourself in situations where you are not able to eat for several days or have excess vomiting or diarrhea which lasts for more than a day or have blood in your stool, please consult your doctor immediately and have an examination to determine the cause. In some cases, intestinal and stomach bleeds may occur after trauma or strain.
Antidote use; It is essential for you to understand the availability of antidotes for different blood thinners; Some like Xarelto do not have any reliable antidotes.
The antidote for Warfarin is an injection of vitamin K. Other anticoagulants may have different antidotes in case of a serious bleed. Be sure to talk to your doctor about which medication you are on and the availability of such antidotes. When there is a need to get that from your blood, you will have to take the same amount. Certain foods may affect your clotting if you are on certain medications. When taking Warfarin dietary restrictions may be difficult and must be closely monitored. You may wish to speak with a nutritionist and your doctor together to create a safe and effective dietary plan, and avoid foods high in natural vitamin K. Common foods rich in Vitamin K if eaten in large quantities will decrease the effectiveness of the medication’s clotting properties. Some of these foods include Kale, Spinach, Brussels Sprouts, Collard Greens, Mustard greens, Chard, Broccoli, Asparagus and more. Green Tea should also be avoided. Alcohol consumption and excess intake of cranberry juice may compound upon the anticoagulant properties and make you more susceptible to bleeds.
Blood thinners have helped many patients at high risk for blood clots and those with other diseases which may be worsened by blood clots events. As with any medication side effects