Blood Thinners

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What are blood thinners?

Blood thinners are medicines that ease the flow of your blood. Blood thinners will not break the clots you have but they prevent the formation of any new clots.

Blood thinners also can stop the blood clots from getting any bigger and blocking the flow. Blood clots can cause major complications like heart attacks, strokes and blockages if left untreated.

Who needs blood thinners?

Blood thinners are taken by many people throughout the world. Blood thinners are life-saving medicine for many people. They can slow the growth of existing clots.

Certain heart or blood vessel diseases

 People who already had a heart attack or any blockage can take the blood thinners to prevent another heart attack.

There are various problems when it comes to heart diseases but the major problem is narrowing or full blockage of arteries. The arteries are the blood vessels that supply blood from the heart to the other organs and tissues.

An abnormal heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a disorder in the heart’s electrical system. It is caused due to the abnormal rhythm of the heart. People with atrial fibrillation have symptoms like shortness of breath, weakness, chest pain, fatigue and dizziness.

AF increases the risk of stroke. Blood thinners reduce the risk of clots and dissolve any future clot formation.

Commonly used drugs are rivaroxaban, apixaban, edoxaban and rivaroxaban.

A heart valve replacement

Heart valve disease is caused due to the improper closure of valves. Valves avoid the backward flow of blood. It acts as a door and once the blood flows through it shuts so that there is no backward flow.

If the valve does not work properly, it might cause complications like regurgitation and mitral valve prolapse.

Regurgitation is the flow of blood in the wrong direction like backward flow and mitral valve prolapse is when one of the heart valves does not close properly.

These valves are replaced with surgery. Patients with a heart valve replacement are at high risk of clot formation. So, the doctors prescribe them blood thinners.

The risk of blood clots after surgery

Blood thinners are used for people who underwent surgery. After surgery, it is common to get blood clots in the legs and other parts of the body. The blood clot in the leg is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

These clots may bring health complications. So, doctors will suggest blood thinners for people who underwent surgery.

Congenital heart defects

A congenital heart defect is a common birth defect. In congenital heart disease, there will be a defect in the structure of the heart.

There can be a defect in the walls, valves and arteries of the heart. As a result, the blood flow will be in the wrong direction or may slow down and may block the blood vessels completely. To avoid blockage doctors might prescribe blood thinners.

What are the different types of blood thinners?

Blood thinners prevent blood clots and do not make the blood thin. There are two basic types of blood thinners.

Anticoagulants

Anticoagulants when added to blood slow down the formation of blood clots. Blood clots are the body’s mechanism to prevent blood loss from wounds. These blood clots may be threatening when it blocks the flow and causes stroke and other heart-related illness.

Anticoagulants interrupt the process of clot formation and help to ease the flow of the blood.

Some of the common anticoagulants are heparin, warfarin, rivaroxaban, dabigatran and edoxaban.

Anticoagulants are given when the blood clot blocks the blood vessel. When the blood is blocked by the clot the organ runs out of oxygen and will eventually stop working. So, to avoid such discomfort anticoagulant drugs are administered.

Antiplatelet drugs

Platelets are involved in the mechanism of clot formation. When there are more platelets than the normal range they will stick together and create a blood clot that leads to blockage.

These clots take place inside the arteries and cause heart stroke or heart attack. When antiplatelet drugs are used, they prevent heart attack and any future clot formation.

Some of the common antiplatelet drugs used are Aspirin and P2Y12 receptor blockers are used. The P2Y12 Receptor drugs are clopidogrel, ticagrelor, cangrelor and ticlopidine.

When are blood thinners prescribed?

Blood thinners are prescribed by doctors and should not be taken on your own. They are prescribed when you have heart attacks caused by blood clots.

When you have diseases like irregular heart rhythm, defect in structure and deep vein thrombosis.

Blood thinners are also given before and after surgery. Doctors prescribe blood thinners when you have atrial fibrillation.

How do they work?

Blood thinners help in the free-flowing blood of blood and also prevent the backward flow of blood.

Blood thinners do not break the clots but they will prevent any further formation of blood clots. They also prevent the blood clot from getting bigger.

Vitamin K is responsible for blood clot formation. The blood thinners act by weakening or blocking the effect of vitamin K.

Some drugs prevent or block the protein and enzymes that help in the process of blood clot formation.

For example, when Warfarin is given it inhibits the vitamin K epoxide reductase complex 1 (VKORC1). Vitamin K epoxide reductase complex 1 is an enzyme that is essential for activating vitamin K.

So, when Warfarin is given it inhibits the formation of coagulation factors and hence blood clot formation is prevented.

How can I take blood thinners safely?

Blood thinners are suggested by doctors and should be taken as prescribed. Blood thinners should be taken at the same time, every day.

Do not skip a dose and don’t try to compensate for a dose. By chance, if you get to miss any dose take it immediately when you remember it.

If you miss it completely consult your doctor and then continue with your medication. Do not take any drugs on your own.

When you are taking blood thinners be careful with your wounds and cuts. When there is a cut blood thinner may cause excessive bleeding and can turn a small cut into major bleeding.

Natural blood thinners

Natural blood thinners reduce blood clot formation naturally without any medication. Some foods naturally reduce clot formation.

Turmeric

The botanical name of turmeric is Curcuma longa. Turmeric is considered as a natural blood-thinning agent. It contains curcumin. Curcumin is a polyphenol that is responsible for the yellow colour of the spice.

Turmeric contains anti-inflammatory properties, antiproliferative properties, antiangiogenic properties and anticoagulant properties.

According to PMID 22531131, turmeric contains antithrombotic properties that help to prevent blood clots when consumed daily.

Ginger

The botanical name of ginger is Zingiber officinale. Ginger contains anti-inflammatory properties that help prevent blood clots. It contains a natural acid called salicylate. Salicylates are effective in preventing excess blood clot formation.

There were eight clinical, two observational studies conducted with ginger. Among the eight studies, four reported that ginger lowered platelet aggregation. The remaining four did not have any effect and the observational studies were uncertain as reported in PMC4619316.

Cayenne peppers

Cayenne peppers are spicy and hot chilli pepper that is used to flavour dishes. It is red in colour and contains a curved tip. Cayenne peppers are rich in salicylates that effectively prevent any blood clot formation.

The botanical name is Capsicum annuum and is quite spicy when compared to the other chillies. Cayenne peppers are available in commercial capsules as many people cannot tolerate the spiciness of the pepper.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is classified as a lipid-soluble component and it is a collective term given to fat-soluble compounds. It contains antioxidant properties that help the body to perform normal and healthy routines.

According to PMC3997530, vitamin E is effective against platelet aggregation. Platelet aggregation leads to atherosclerosis and vitamin E effectively prevents it.

Vitamin E also helps in the reduced production of prostaglandins like thromboxane. Over-production of thromboxane causes platelet clumping.

Garlic

Garlic is placed under the herb category and is commonly used for heart and blood system-related conditions. The botanical name of garlic is Allium sativum.

Garlic is commonly used in cooking and besides the taste, it contains natural antibiotic and antimicrobial properties.

Garlic is a proven herb to inhibit platelet aggregation that is induced by adenosine diphosphate and arachidonic acid agonists, according to PMC3915434.

It is also recommended as a supplementary treatment for platelet aggregation.

Cassia cinnamon

Cassia cinnamon is a key ingredient in every food due to its exotic smell. Cinnamon contains anti-diabetic properties, anti-cancer properties, antilipemic properties, anti-inflammatory properties and antimicrobial properties.

Cinnamon contains coumarins, which contain a colourless crystalline solid, which resembles the scent of vanilla and has a slightly bitter taste.

Coumarins are an effective blood-thinning agent but when taken in high quantities they may be toxic. The toxin is called hepatotoxin. So, it is advised to take it in small quantities.

Ginkgo biloba

Gingko biloba is a tree that is common in China. It is also called ginkgo. It has an effective fibrinolytic effect.

It can help to dissolve blood clots. In a study reported in PMC2716226, Ginkgo has therapeutic benefits like regulating blood flow to the heart and brain.

Grape seed extract

Grape seed extract act as a natural anticoagulant. Anticoagulant and antiplatelet drugs are effective drugs but they may have some effect on health.

As stated inPMC6356405, Grape seed extract naturally inhibits the proteolytic activity of thrombin, thrombin-induced fibrinogen polymerization and platelet aggregation.

In a research study conducted Grape seed extract significantly inhibited the blood platelet response.

Dong quai

Dong quai is a herb that has its roots in China. It can effectively reduce the blood clotting mechanism.

Dong quai can be consumed as herbal tea and with soups.

Feverfew

Feverfew is a native of Asia Minor and the Balkans. Feverfew contains a compound called parthenolide. Feverfew is mainly used for migraine headaches.

Feverfew might help to reduce the blood clotting process. Although, there is more research needed on its anticoagulant properties.

Bromelain

Bromelain is an enzyme that is extracted from pineapple. It can be effective for cardiovascular diseases and also regulated blood pressure.

The enzyme contains natural anti-inflammatory properties. Bromelain has pieces of evidence that it can break blood clots and also reduce any further clot formation.

Foods to limit when taking blood thinners

You have to be careful with your food when you are taking blood thinners. Even a small cut can also be aggravated when you are taking blood thinners.

Patients taking Warfarin or any other drug should avoid foods that contain Vitamin K. Leafy vegetables, cranberry, green tea, grapefruit and alcohol should be avoided.

Blood thinners and alcohol

Consumption of alcohol can be dangerous for health and people with some health conditions can be life-threatening.

When you consume alcohol, the liver breaks down alcohol. So, the drug will be in your blood and it might increase the level of the drug in your blood. This might lead to the risk of bleeding.

So, it is better to avoid alcohol when you are taking blood thinners. Consult your doctor if you have any adverse effects.

What are the side effects of blood thinners?

Menstrual bleeding that is much heavier than normal

Menstrual bleeding may increase when you take anticoagulation. Research has revealed that oral anticoagulants affect approximately 70% of menstruating women.

Heavy menstrual bleeding may lead to iron deficiency, increased medical interventions and affects the quality of life.

Red or brown urine

People administered with blood thinners will have a problem with their urine. They experience different coloured urine like red and brown.

The colour change can be due to the presence of blood in the urine. The blood in the urine should not be avoided and consult your doctor immediately.

Bowel movements that are red or black

Patients taking blood thinners or blood coagulants can see red or black stools. This is because blood thinners cause internal bleeding and this is the reason for red or black stools.

Blood in stools should not be avoided as it can be a sign of any kind of cancer. So always consult your doctor if you have blood in your stools.

Vomit that is brown or bright red

People who take blood thinners vomit have different colours like brown and red. This is because blood comes along with your vomit.

If you experience any such, do not hesitate to call your doctor immediately. These symptoms might indicate some health conditions.

Coughing up something red

When you cough you get blood due to the blood thinners. Medications like waracari, rivaroxaban and dabigatran can cause such side effects.

Severe pain, such as a headache or stomach ache

Blood thinners can trigger side effects like headaches and stomach pain. Drugs like Warfarin can cause such side effects.

Unusual bruising

Blood thinners slow the clotting process and can cause adverse side effects like unusual bruising.

A cut that does not stop bleeding

When you have a cut or a wound blood clots help to stop bleeding and your wound will heal. When you take blood thinners there will be no clotting process and a small cut can be aggravated and can lead to big bleeding.

A serious fall or bump on the head

Patients taking blood thinners can experience side effects like a head bump. Even a small head trauma may lead to big health conditions and cause a hematoma. This is common in old-aged people.

Dizziness or weakness

Other than the bleeding problems there can be other weaknesses that are linked to blood thinners.

Some problems are dizziness, fatigue and shortness of breath.

Conclusion

Blood thinners can avoid the risk of stroke and other heart-related conditions. Although, there might be some adverse effects.

When you are taking blood thinners you will need a blood test so that doctor can adjust the dosage of the blood thinners.

Also, be watchful when you use sharp objects as a small cut can cause aggravated bleeding.

FAQ

1.What are the most common blood thinners?

The common blood thinners are warfarin, rivaroxaban, dabigatran, apixaban and edoxaban.

2.What are the side effects of blood thinners?

 The common side effects of blood thinners are passing blood in urine, having black stools, severe bruising, prolonged nosebleeds, vomiting blood, coughing up blood, sudden severe back pain and difficulty breathing or chest pain.

3.What is the safest blood thinner to take?

Some safe blood thinners are dabigatran, rivaroxaban and apixaban.

4.Can aspirin break up a blood clot?

Aspirin will not break up any blood clots but it will prevent any further clot formation.

5.Do blood thinners shorten your life?

Blood thinners save life and do not shorten your life span, yet they might have some adverse effects.

6. What foods should be avoided when taking blood thinners?

Foods like green leafy vegetables, green tea, cranberry juice, grapefruit and alcohol should be avoided. Additionally, foods that are rich in vitamin K should also be avoided.

7.What not to do while on blood thinners?

When you are taking blood thinners be careful when your handle sharp objects like knives. Even a small threat can cause extensive bleeding.

8. How long should you be on blood thinners?

A blood thinner is usually taken for 3-6 months. Depending on your health condition your doctor might reduce or increase your period of blood thinners.

9.How do you know if you need blood thinners?

Blood thinners are for people who are at a higher risk of stroke and heart attack. Do not take any drugs on your own. Always consult your doctor before taking any medication.

10. What vitamins should be avoided when on blood thinners?

Vitamin K should be avoided when you take blood thinners. Vitamin K is responsible for clotting

11.Do blood thinners affect kidneys?

Patients who take blood thinners have reduced kidney function. The effect ranges from mild to adverse.

12.Are blood thinners good for you?

Blood thinners reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack. Yet, they have adverse side effects on your health.


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The Information including but not limited to text, graphics, images and other material contained on this blog are intended for education and awareness only. No material on this blog is intended to be a substitute for professional medical help including diagnosis or treatment. It is always advisable to consult medical professional before relying on the content. Neither the Author nor Star Health and Allied Insurance Co. Ltd accepts any responsibility for any potential risk to any visitor/reader.

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