Firstly, what are blood thinners?
Blood thinners are medicines that prevent blood clots from forming. They also keep existing blood clots from getting larger. Clots in your arteries, veins, and heart can cause heart attacks, strokes, and blockages.
There are two main types of blood thinners:
- Anticoagulants, such as heparin or warfarin (also called Coumadin). They slow down the body’s process of making clots.
- Antiplatelet drugs, such as aspirin, I’llBut they also come with a major side effect: the risk of dangerous heavy bleeding.
This is because these medicines work by interfering with your blood’s ability to coagulate (clump together), they can either prevent a clot from forming or keep an already-existing one from getting larger. The drawback in this is that If you sustain even a minor injury i.e., you cut your finger from slicing vegetables, you may have trouble stopping the blood flow.
How can Aspirin prevent a heart attack?
Aspirin interferes with the blood’s clotting action. When you bleed, your blood’s clotting cells, called platelets, build up at the site of your wound. The platelets help form a plug that seals the opening in your blood vessel to stop bleeding.
But this clotting can also happen within the vessels that supply your heart with blood. If your blood vessels are already narrowed from atherosclerosis; the build-up of fatty deposits in your arteries – a fatty deposit in your vessel lining can burst.
Then, a blood clot can quickly form and block the artery. This prevents blood flow to the heart and causes a heart attack. Aspirin therapy reduces the clumping action of platelets thereby possibly preventing a heart attack.
In all of this, do not take a daily dose of aspirin except on the instruction of your doctor. Your doctor may suggest daily aspirin therapy if:
- You’ve already had a heart attack or stroke.
- You haven’t had a heart attack, but you have had a stent placed in a coronary artery,
- You have had coronary bypass surgery, or you have chest pain due to coronary artery disease (angina).
- You’ve never had a heart attack, but you’re at high risk of having one.
- You have diabetes and at least one other heart disease risk factor – such as smoking or high blood pressure; and you’re a man older than 50 or a woman older than 60.
FDA is also recommending that people should be careful when using aspirin with other blood thinners, such as warfarin, dabigatran (Pradaxa), rivaroxaban (Xarelto) and apixiban (Eliquis). Even though it works; for prevention, it may not necessarily be the best for them. You have to look at the patient’s risk to determine if it is appropriate. They need to be evaluated to determine their bleeding risk.”
Also a professor of pharmacy practice has stated that some individuals may not be the best candidates for aspirin therapy, such as those who have a history of any type of ulcer. A person may have such low risk that aspirin may not be something they need.
If you are very young and healthy and taking aspirin, it may not be something you have to do. It also depends on other medications you are taking. If you are taking medications that aren’t blood thinners, they could also be very hard on the stomach and could potentially increase the risk of stomach bleed, as well. It is important to always weigh the risk versus the benefit with any medication you take.
Ways to Prevent Bleeding Risks associated with using blood thinners
If you’re taking blood thinners, following these steps can reduce your risk for potentially serious bleeding:
- Follow your treatment plan to the letter: Be sure you’re taking your medication exactly as directed by your doctor. If you don’t take enough of the blood thinner, it might not be able to prevent a clot. But if you take too much, it can increase your risk for bleeding.
- Avoid taking drugs that can increase your risk of heavy bleeding: That includes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Advil and Motrin (ibuprofen), and Aleve (naproxen). Some supplements also can increase your risk of bleeding, St. John’s Wort is one; Inform your doctor about every dietary supplement you are currently using and consult with him or her before taking any new ones- even if those products are labelled as “safe” or “all natural.”
- Pay extra attention to your diet:If you’re taking blood thinners, you shouldn’t make any major dietary changes without talking to your doctor first. You’ll also want to avoid eating too much vitamin K, which is found in foods such as asparagus, broccoli, and leafy greens like kale. (This vitamin encourages blood clotting and can interfere with the actions of certain blood thinners like warfarin).
- Avoid taking any physical risks: Generally, patients should avoid any activity that may result in frequent or potentially serious trauma, such as skiing and contact sports,” says Gomes. And even when you’re participating in low-risk sports, you should always wear proper safety gear, like a helmet and gloves.
- Be more cautious in general: It’s smart to avoid any abrasive or sharp objects, For example, choose soft-bristle toothbrushes and shoes that don’t hurt your feet. And be careful when you’re using razors, scissors, and your favourite paring knife.
- Don’t wait to seek help: If you do fall or sustain an injury, especially a blow to the head, don’t hesitate to go to the doctor’s office or even the emergency room if necessary.
How to Tell If the Bleeding Is an Emergency
So, in addition to taking steps to prevent bleeding, it’s also important to recognize the warning signs of this potentially serious side effect:
- Excessive menstrual bleeding
- Coughing up anything red in colour
- Severe headache or stomach ache
- Dizziness or weakness
- Blood in the urine or bowel movements
Pharmacist, Front-end web developer.
Project Manager- Project DigiSolar
In house writer, Advantage Health Africa.