Blood thinners reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, and blockages in your arteries and veins by preventing clumps of blood (blood clots) from forming or growing. However, blood thinners cannot break up blood clots that have already formed. Blood thinners are part of a class of medicines called anticoagulants. Although they are called blood thinners, these medicines do not really thin your blood. Instead, they decrease the blood's ability to clot. Decreased clotting keeps fewer harmful blood clots from forming and from blocking blood vessels. Oral anticoagulants come in a pill form that you swallow. Some powerful blood thinners like Heparin are injected in to the body by a needle.
Blood thinners are commonly used in the prevention of strokes. This is especially important for people who have suffered a first stroke, as they have an increased risk of suffering a second one. In fact, about 30% of all strokes in a given year are repeat strokes. Thus, stroke survivors must be diligent about stroke prevention. However, even if you have never suffered a stroke, but are at risk of getting one, you are likely to be taking a blood thinner.
An anticoagulant is a substance that prevents coagulation, that is, it stops blood from clotting. Anticoagulants are used to treat atrial fibrillation because irregularly beating heart chambers cause blood to pool. Pooled blood is more likely to develop blood clots, which can travel from the heart to the brain and cause a stroke. Anticoagulants help prevent the blood clots from forming and reduce the risk of stroke caused by atrial fibrillation.
Coumadin, also known as warfarin, is a medication originally extracted from coumarin, a chemical found in some plants. It suppresses the body's ability to form blood clots, by blocking the function of vitamin K. Coumadin is an excellent medication for stroke prevention as a result of its potent blood thinning properties (i.e., it prevents the abnormal formation of blood clots in the body). An example of a disease in which abnormal blood clot formation leads to stroke is atrial fibrillation, a disease in which an erratic beating of the heart leads to the formation of unwanted blood clots inside the heart chambers. Other instances in which Coumadin is used for stroke prevention include:
Coumadin is a blood thinner, and patients should be sure to tell any health professionals that they are taking the diet before any surgeries, teeth cleaning or other procedures. Vitamin K is a natural coagulant, thickening the blood. Therefore, while maintaining your diet, it is important to be aware of the vitamin K content of your foods and get approximately the recommended daily allowance of vitamin K, but not more. As vitamin K helps in clotting of blood and getting more of Vitamin K can interfere with Coumadin which works to reduce the clotting of blood. Foods that are high in vitamin K are leafy green vegetables such as spinach, legumes including peanuts and peas, and some vegetable oils. Eating large amount of foods that are high in vitamin K can reduce the effectiveness of your Coumadin.
Aspirin has been recognized as a blood thinner. A daily dose of aspirinis the only required cardiac medicine. This is particularly the case with those children born with congenital heart defects who have undergone surgery. They are often given a palliative daily dose of aspirin. Aspirin can irritate the stomach and intestines and cause indigestion, nausea, and vomiting. Aspirin can significantly reduce platelet counts. Always consult a doctor before taking medications.