By Mohammad Ghalichi, M.D.
If you’ve recently had a heart attack or stroke, or have been diagnosed with a cardiovascular issue, there’s a good chance your doctor prescribed a blood thinner. Blood thinners do exactly as their name suggests. By acting as an anticoagulant, they thin the blood and help it flow more smoothly through your veins and organs, helping to prevent clotting that can put you at increased risk for a heart attack or stroke. While blood thinners are an important part of your treatment plan, there are things you need to keep in mind when taking them.
Take Extra Precautions
Because blood thinners thin the blood, it’s important to take extra precautions in your daily routine to avoid injury. While nicking your face or leg with a razor while shaving may not be a traumatic event, it will still likely bleed more profusely and for longer than usual. Consider switching to an electric razor. Wear shoes with non-slip soles as much as possible, especially when doing yardwork. Wear long sleeves and long pants to help protect your skin from bumps, scrapes, and bruises. But don’t wear anything long that might cause you to trip and fall. If you do fall, call your doctor or immediately go to the emergency room even if there’s no blood. A fall or head injury can cause bleeding under the skin or skull, which could be devastating because the body’s normal reaction to stop bleeding doesn’t occur for someone on blood thinners and many of the blood thinners on the market today don’t yet have antidotes.
Take Your Medication Correctly
When it comes to a drug that is thinning out your blood, it’s especially important to make sure you’re following the instructions given to you by your doctor and the pharmacy.
For example, if you miss a dose, do not double up the next one. Call your doctor to see what he or she recommends before taking any action – you don’t want too much of the medication’s anticoagulant properties working at one time.
Also, check with your doctor and pharmacy about other medications you can take along with your blood thinner. Some over-the-counter medications shouldn’t be taken with blood thinners because they can affect the way your prescription works, so if you’re taking anything at all, even if it’s only aspirin, make sure you let your physician know so they can give you instructions on what to continue or discontinue taking.
Let Other People Know About Your Medication
Wearing a medical alert bracelet and letting your friends and loved ones know what medication you’re on is the fastest and easiest way to let health professionals know what’s going on with you in the event you’re injured and can’t speak for yourself. If, for example, you were to get in an accident that didn’t look traumatic but you were unconscious, thinner blood could leave you at risk for internal bleeding in addition to you not being able to let anyone know that you were on a blood thinner – a circumstance the first-responders to your accident wouldn’t necessarily know about.
Medical alert bracelets, letting friends and family know what you’re taking, and keeping a list of your medications on you at all times are good ways to let healthcare professionals know the best way to treat you.
What questions or concerns do you have about blood thinners?
Dr. Mohammad Ghalichi is a board-certified cardiologist who cares for patients at Kelsey-Seybold’s Spencer R. Berthelsen, M.D., Main Campus and The Vintage Clinic. His clinical interests include preventive cardiovascular medicine, coronary artery disease, cardiac arrhythmias, valvular heart disease, cardiac imaging, and echocardiography.