Your blood thinning medicine can save your life.*
*But only if you take it safely and that means learning to avoid dangerous interactions, getting regular blood tests, and following the instructions of your health care providers.
You are not alone in taking a blood thinner. Some people use a blood thinner for a short time, but many others take it for years to prevent serious health problems like stroke. No matter why or for how long you use a blood thinning medicine, it is very important to take it safely. Doing so will help you stay healthy and avoid unnecessary risks.
But we know its not easy. A recent survey of 400 patients taking blood thinners found that even though most of them thought they were taking the medication safely many of them lacked important information and had a hard time doing the things they were supposed to do. In fact, most of them (93%) told us that they had experienced a problem related to taking their blood thinner.
To help you take your blood thinning medicine safely, heres a simple question and answer guide. Use it to talk with your doctors and other health care providers about your medicine, and make sure you get answers to the questions below and any others you may have! You can also get answers to these important questions and find other related information by going to www.mybloodthinner.org.
Ask these questions to be safe and stay healthy
Q: Why do I need to take a blood thinner, and for how long?
A: To answer this question for you personally, be sure to ask your doctor or other health care provider. Generally speaking, people take blood thinners to help prevent the formation of blood clots that can move to another part of the body and cause great harm. For example, if a blood clot settles in the brain, it can lead to a stroke. (A stroke is defined as a sudden loss of brain function that is caused by stopping blood flow to the brain or the rupture of blood vessels in the brain). Some people only need to take blood thinners for a few months to avoid clotting after an operation, but most people with long-term conditions (such as atrial fibrillation or a history of strokes) probably will need to take blood thinners for the rest of their lives.
Q: Why must I tell ALL of my doctors and other health care providers about ALL of the medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements I am taking including my blood thinning medicine?
A: Blood thinners help prevent clots by keeping blood thickness or clotting levels in a desired range. If blood is too thin (clots too slowly), it can cause serious bleeding. If blood is too thick (clots too quickly), clots could form and lead to a stroke. Many other prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements are known to interact with blood thinners making your blood either too thick or too thin. To help avoid these serious problems, it is critical to tell all of your doctors and other health care providers that you are taking a blood thinner BEFORE you take ANY new medicines, vitamins, or herbal supplements.
Q: How, if at all, should I change my diet now that Im taking a blood thinner?
A: Because the dose of your blood thinner has been set to maintain a desired range, the most important thing to remember here is that consistency is key. From the time you start taking your blood thinner, you should try to eat a normal, healthy diet. Like some medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements, certain foods are known to interact with blood thinners. In particular, foods rich in vitamin K such as spinach and broccoli can have a clotting effect on the blood. This does not mean that you should stop eating spinach and other leafy greens if you already eat them on a regular basis. Just be sure that you eat a normal, balanced diet maintaining a consistent level of foods containing vitamin K. If possible, its a good idea to talk with a dietician about your overall diet before you start taking a blood thinner.
Q: How often should I get my blood tested, and what should my PT/INR number be?
A: When you are first starting to take your blood thinner, you will probably have to be tested daily or at least weekly in order to determine the dose that is right for you. The result of this blood test is called a PT or INR number, and the desired INR range is usually between 2 and 3 although your doctor or other health care provider may decide on a different range depending on your personal needs. Generally, anything under 2 means the blood is too thick (clots too quickly), and anything over 3 means the blood is too thin (clots too slowly). Once your health care provider finds the right dose that keeps you in that range, you can probably reduce your number of blood tests to once a month. You should always follow-up with your doctor (or other designated health care provider) to get the lab results so that you always know your actual PT/INR number.
Q: What signs or symptoms should prompt me to seek further care?
A: Most drugs can cause some side effects. The important thing is being able to recognize when these side effects are unusual or might be dangerous. It is normal for people taking blood thinners to experience minor bruising. If you experience anything different or unusual, call your health care provider. And, if you experience more severe side effects such as bleeding that will not stop like from a small cut, from shaving, or for any other reason go straight to the emergency room. For a more complete list of symptoms that are serious enough for you to call your health care provider, go to www.mybloodthinner.org.
For more information, please visit www.mybloodthinner.org.
Copyright 2006 SOS Rx