Doctors prescribe blood thinners to prevent clots that can cause heart attacks and strokes. This is important for patients with certain heart conditions, such as atrial fibrillation (AFib), and those who have undergone procedures, such as heart valve replacement.
Patients who have received heart valve replacements and undergo other procedures take certain drugs to reduce blood clots. These so-called blood thinners (anticoagulants and antiplatelets) don’t actually make blood thin. Rather, they are drugs that decrease blood clots and keep existing clots from growing.
Clots can block the blood flow to the heart, lungs and brain, causing heart attacks and strokes. Blood thinners are also given to patients after some surgical operations, such as knee and hip replacement.
People with an irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation (AFib) are five times more likely to have a stroke. And when they have strokes, they are twice as likely to be left unable to care for themselves or talk. They are also twice as likely to be unable to move at least one side of the body.
While blood thinners lower clotting risks, they also come with potential pitfalls. These are mainly related to bleeding and can be minor, such as bruising, or major, such as bleeding in the brain.
Anticoagulants slow down the process of making clots. They do this by targeting clotting factors, proteins made in the liver. These proteins need Vitamin K to form.
Warfarin patients need routine blood testing to monitor how quickly their blood clots.
In 2018, Warfarin patients who want to make monitoring easier will be able to purchase a new handheld device – Roche’s CoaguChek Vantus, the first self-testing device for coagulation monitoring with Bluetooth technology.
Anticoagulants compete with Vitamin K, inhibiting the circulation of clotting factors. They are recommended for people with atrial fibrillation and who are at high risk of strokes caused by clots originating in the heart. They are also prescribed for people with heart valve replacements, phlebitis and congestive heart failure.
Antiplatelet drugs like aspirin reduce the severity of strokes and heart attacks and prevent them from occurring.
Antiplatelet drugs prevent blood cell fragments known as platelets from sticking together and forming clots. They do this by inhibiting the production of a chemical that signals platelets to stick together.
This chemical process is needed when you are cut and the platelets form a scab to seal the wound. But it can threaten the lives of stroke survivors by creating clots that can block blood from flowing to the brain or heart.
Patients taking blood thinners must follow instructions precisely.
They also must communicate with their doctors about all other medications and supplements they are taking.
Patients also should tell their doctors if they are taking blood thinners before any surgical or dental procedure.
Women should be aware of pregnancy risks.
Many blood thinners can cause birth defects or bleeding that can harm fetuses.
Ask your doctor about the risks of alcohol and tobacco use while taking these medications and potential interactions with other medicines or supplements.
Some drugs increase the effects of anticoagulants and the chance of bleeding. Others decrease the effects and increase the chance of blood clots.
Such interactions can be dangerous to your health.
Most blood thinners can cause deficiencies of certain nutrients, including vitamin D, vitamin C and calcium. Some doctors may recommend taking supplements to compensate for this.
When you are taking blood thinners, you should be extra careful about avoiding injuries.
Possible side effects of Xarelto and other blood thinners include uncontrolled internal bleeding, bruising and rash.
Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.
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