Blood thinners: 7 tips you should know!Blood clots can have serious health consequences as they can block blood circulation and deprive an organ or area of the body of the oxygen it needs to function properly. Anticoagulants are medications that prevent blood clots from forming. They may be prescribed for different reasons, such as preventing heart attacks, strokes, clots in the legs (thrombophlebitis), or clots in the lungs (pulmonary embolism), or preventing complications after certain medical procedures.
1.Treatment duration is important
The duration of the treatment depends on the reason why the medication was prescribed in the first place. It is crucial to take the medication for the full length of time in order to achieve maximum health benefits. Your doctor or pharmacist will tell you how long you need to take the medication.
2.Watch for bleeding!
Since anticoagulant treatments thin the blood, there is a greater risk of excessive bleeding if you hurt yourself. People on anticoagulants should therefore avoid sports or leisure activities that increase the risk of cuts or open wounds.
It is also important to recognize the signs of internal bleeding, such as a sudden and intense headache, abdominal pain, black or bloody stools, vomiting with blood or lumps that look like coffee beans, blood in the urine, or bleeding that won’t stop (nosebleed, cut, etc.). If one of these symptoms appears following a fall or accident, call 911 immediately. Feel free to consult your pharmacist if you have concerns about your risk of bleeding.
You should also notify all the healthcare professionals (including dentists) you consult that you are taking anticoagulants. Inform your beautician, physiotherapist, and massage therapist as well, where applicable. If you need to undergo a medical procedure, you may have to stop taking the anticoagulant in advance. Always check first with a health professional or pharmacist how to proceed.
3. Stick to your medication scheduleIt is crucial that you take your anticoagulation medication at the same time every day. In some cases it has a limited duration of action. Skipping one or more doses can significantly reduce treatment efficacy. If you forget to take a dose, or take the wrong dose, contact your pharmacist to know what to do.
4. Stick to your prescribed monitoring schedulePeople who take anticoagulants require close monitoring. In some cases you will need regular blood tests to ensure the dose you are taking is right. Some pharmacists are trained to analyze the results of blood tests and can make treatment adjustments as needed. Inquire with your pharmacist.
5. Careful with over-the-counter medication and natural health products!A number of over-the-counter medications and natural health products can considerably alter the effect of your anticoagulant, which can increase your risk of bleeding or, conversely, the risk of blood clots forming. Always ask your pharmacist for advice before buying over-the-counter medication or a natural health product. They will be able to tell you whether it is safe to take it in conjunction with the anticoagulant you are on and, if it isn’t, can recommend a more appropriate alternative.
6. Stick to dietary recommendations
When you take anticoagulants, it is important to follow dietary recommendations, as some foods, for example, grapefruit, can alter the effect of many medications, including some anticoagulants.
You may be asked to pay special attention to your consumption of foods rich in vitamin K, such as green vegetables, offal, vegetables in the cabbage family, green tea, and some herbs. It is also best to avoid alcoholic beverages, as alcohol thins the blood. If you have questions about dietary restrictions, consult your pharmacist.
7. Ask for advice when you get sick
A change in your health can also have an effect on your anticoagulant treatment. If you have a fever or experience vomiting or an infection (cold, flu, stomach bug, etc.), consult your pharmacist or a member of your health care team without delay. They will give you advice to make sure your illness does not have any adverse effects on your anticoagulant treatment.
As a precaution, keep an up-to-date list of all the medications you are taking on your person at all times. Your pharmacist can easily print out a copy for you. Show the list to any healthcare professionals you consult. It can also be worth wearing a medical bracelet or necklace that indicates you are on anticoagulants—a crucial piece of information if ever you require emergency care.
Got questions or concerns about your anticoagulant treatment? Don’t hesitate to take advantage of your pharmacist’s knowledge.
The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide complete information on the subject matter or to replace the advice of a health professional. This information does not constitute medical consultation, diagnosis or opinion and should not be interpreted as such. Please consult your health care provider if you have any questions about your health, medications or treatment.