An Overview on Blood Thinners
Blood thinners are substances that prevent clot forming or increase the time blood takes to form clots. Blood thinners are frequently used by persons who are at an imminent risk of a heart attack or stroke. It is also used by patients who have had knee or hip replacement surgery or have atrial fibrillation. It is usually a combination of several chemicals. However blood thinners are very difficult to manage and use safely. Hence the use of these should be severely monitored as heavy bleeding can be a side effect. The dosage of these drugs is based on the results of the patient’s blood test. There is an International Normalized Ratio (INR) for determining the thickness of the blood. Ideally the blood thickness should be between the range of 2 and 3.
Types of blood thinners
Blood thinners can be taken orally or intravenously. They are broadly classified as Anticoagulants and Antiplatelet drugs based on their method of action. Warfarin and heparin are some commonly used anticoagulants. They affect chemical reactions in the body and lengthen the time required for blood to form a clot. Aspirin is the commonly used antiplatelet drug and it prevents the platelets in the blood from grouping together to form clots. Warfarin is a stronger drug than aspirin and hence has to be carefully administered. Also since warfarin is highly reactive, weeks of testing small dosages of the drug has to be done before finding the correct measure.
Abnormal and profuse bleeding inside the intestines and eyes are some possible side effects of this drug. Patients using anticoagulants have to be careful not to eat too much of vitamin k as it can reduce the effectiveness of the drug. Anticoagulant patients have to be careful not to bruise or cut their skin as it involves the risk of sever bleeding. Aspirin has been used as a blood thinner for many years now. Children having congenital heart disease is often administered a daily dose of aspirin. The side effects of aspirin include irritable stomach, indigestion, nausea and vomiting. Anticoagulants are also used in laboratories where blood is stored. They prevent the laboratory blood specimens from clotting.
Aggrenox is an aspirin based drug with possible side effects including headache, indigestion and diarrhea. Heparin is an intravenous drug that prevents blood clots and breaks down existing ones. Bleeding and easy bruising are possible side effects. Lovenox is a drug that is administered intramuscularly with skin irritation and nausea being the side effects. Another commonly used blood thinner is plavix. Headache, stomachache, muscle pain and dizziness are the side effects of this drug.
Steps to reduce side effects
Since the side effects of most blood thinners can be possibly fatal, constant vigilance is essential. Appointments with the doctor should never be missed. It is critical that the doctor monitor the level of medicine in the blood. In case an appointment is missed, the patient should immediately reschedule and make note of the physical changes in health. A stable diet has to be maintained to keep the side effects at bay. Since vitamin k is the chief concern, a balanced diet that incorporates a sufficient quantity of it should be maintained. Drastic diet changes should be avoided and any change should be brought to the attention of the doctor. Certain foods that contain vitamin k are lettuce, cashews, liver, cauliflower, mayonnaise, soybeans, broccoli, cabbage, blueberry and dark leafy vegetables. When using blood thinners, attention and consistency counts. The prescribed dosage should be followed consistently and without change. Also the patient should be attentive in noting any physical changes in the body. Alcohol and blood thinners don’t mix. Hence people on these medications should try to stay away from booze as much as possible. Since bleeding is an important and dangerous side effect, steps should be taken to prevent it. Using a mild toothbrush and electric shaver is a good idea.
Natural blood thinners
Certain foods have high amounts of salicylates and omega 3 fatty acids that impart blood thinning properties to the food. Salicylates are natural substances that block vitamin k. foods that contain high amounts of salicylates are spices, fruits, dried fruits and nuts. Ginger, curry powder, cayenne pepper, thyme, cinnamon, turmeric, licorice and peppermint have high salicylates content. Other substances that contain it are grapes, raisins, prunes, cranberries, strawberries, prunes, oranges, honey, wine and vinegar. Being rich in omega 3 fatty acids, most types of fish have good blood thinning properties. Salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout and anchovies are some examples. Vitamin E is an enemy of vitamin K and hence foods containing it have thinning properties. Vitamin B 6 is another substance that helps control excessive clotting of the blood.
Studies have shown that vigorous exercise lowers the level of vitamin k in females. People who remain stationary for long periods of time tend to develop a high risk for blood clots.