Blood thinners keep you from developing blood clots that can cause many serious health issues, including death. They help to prevent stroke in people with heart conditions, such as atrial fibrillation, mechanical valves, and those who’ve had serious heart attacks.
If your doctor has mentioned blood thinners to you, you may have questions about anticoagulants. Keep reading to find more information about blood thinners and what you should expect.
What Do They Do?
Blood thinners, also known as anticoagulants, keep your blood from clotting. A blood clot slows the flow of blood in and out of the heart and to the other organs in the body. In some cases, blood clots stop the flow of blood altogether. Anticoagulants keep clots from forming so there’s less risk of stroke or heart attack.
What Are the Side Effects?
There are some side effects associated with blood thinners. Generally, the most common one is heavy bleeding in certain situations. Women experience heavier periods. Many people get nosebleeds with excessive bleeding. Others experience heavy bleeding from their gums and bleeding that won’t stop in the event of an injury.
Other side effects are less direct. Patients report feeling dizzy and having weakened muscles. Some hair loss is experienced, as well as rashes on the skin.
It’s important for people who experience any of these or other side effects to reach out to their doctors or go to an emergency room for treatment.
What Types Are There?
There are three common types of blood thinners–anticoagulants, antiplatelets, and natural. Let’s look at each type.
- Anticoagulants – These increase the amount of time it takes a clot to form in your bloodstream. While the blood can still thicken and form a clot, it will take much more time. They’re often prescribed to people with heart disease.
- Antiplatelets – These keep the blood cells in your blood from clumping together at all. They may be prescribed to anyone at risk of stroke or a heart condition. An example of an antiplatelet medication is aspirin.
- Natural – Aging individuals who want to be healthy or those with minor risks of heart attack or stroke can use natural blood thinners. Recommended natural blood thinners include fish oil, garlic, vitamin E, nattokinase, and lumbrokinase.
What Interferes with Them?
Some supplements, foods, and other medications can cause interference with blood thinners or dangerous interactions.
Vitamin K interferes with some anticoagulants rendering them less effective. If you’re taking anticoagulants, you may want to avoid foods high in vitamin K, such as broccoli, cabbage, kale, spinach, brussels sprouts, and other greens.
Herbal supplements can also be dangerous to mix with anticoagulant drugs, as can alcohol, cranberry juice, and other medications.
If you are at risk for heart disease, heart attack, or stroke, you may need blood thinners. Your doctor will help to figure out what type is best for your situation. Side effects exist but are usually mild. Take your blood thinners as recommended to avoid adverse reactions or serious complications.