Learn about blood thinners and anticoagulants.
Select a Topic
- Who Should Use Blood Thinners?
- What Blood Thinners are Available?
- Possible Side Effects of Blood Thinners
- Food to Help Promote Blood Thinning
- How to Use Blood Thinners
- Using Blood Thinners During Pregnancy
What are Blood Thinners?
The term ‘blood thinners’ refers to a group of allopathic medications known as anticoagulants. They are used to prevent the cells in the blood from clotting too readily and forming blood clots within the vessels.
Although they are referred to as blood thinners, they do not actually thin the blood. They work by decreasing the blood’s ability to clot so that blood vessels remain unblocked.
Who Should Use Blood Thinners?
Blood thinners are administered to those who are most at risk of a heart attack, stroke, or aneurism. Also, blood thinners may be prescribed to treat varicose veins or arrhythmia. They may also be used for the prevention of thromboembolic disorders, while some are used to treat thromboembolism.
What Blood Thinners are Available?
The most common blood thinner used is aspirin, which significantly inhibits platelet activity, one of the first steps in the clotting process. Sometimes, a small daily dose of aspirin is all that is required to treat heart conditions.
Possible Side Effects of Blood Thinners
- Hair Loss
- Headaches & Migraines
- Low Blood Pressure
- Heavier Menstruation
Aspirin Use With Children
The use of aspirin as a blood thinner for children must be monitored. If a child has a fever, or certain viral infections such as influenza, gastric flu or chicken pox, aspirin must be stopped immediately. The use of aspirin has been associated with Reye’s syndrome, a life-threatening disease that causes major damage to the body’s organs.
When aspirin is not strong enough to stop blood platelets from forming clots, the second most common blood thinners used are oral anticoagulants. They should be used only under close medical supervision, as they do have adverse side effects, such as severe bleeding after bruising or cutting the skin.
More powerful blood thinners can be injected intravenously with a needle directly into the bloodstream, where they work to rapidly dissolve clots.
Foods to Help Promote Blood Thinning
Vitamin K plays an intrical role in coagulation of the blood, that is why it is important to eat foods high in salicylates which blocks vitamin K. Foods such as prunes, cherries, cranberries, blueberries, grapes and strawberries have a high salicylates content and can help thin the blood.
Also, omega-3 fatty acids can help to thin the blood. Omega-3 fatty acids have been known to lower cholesterol and make the blood less prone to clotting. Foods high in omega-3 are salmon, lake trout and mackerel. For those who are not fond of the taste of fish, taking a fish oil supplement can bring the same results.
How to Use Blood Thinners
There are various kinds of blood thinners, and it is advisable to consult with your doctor regarding the dosage. Other medicines that you may be taking can increase or decrease the effect of the blood thinners. Also, high altitudes can increase the effect of blood thinners. Be sure to inform your doctor about any other medication, even if it is just a vitamin supplement.
Your doctor should also be aware of your medical history as well as any physical symptoms that you may be experiencing before taking blood thinners.
It is also recommended that you follow a healthy diet. In particular, you may need to limit your intake of vitamin K, generally found in liver, fish, cabbage, spinach, brussel sprouts and other green, leafy vegetables.
Avoid smoking and refrain from drinking large quantities of alcohol.
Using Blood Thinners During Pregnancy
Blood thinners have been known to help women suffering from infertility. Some women experience multiple miscarriages or stillbirths due to blood clots in the placenta which interfere with oxygen and nutrients passing onto an unborn baby. Additionally, blood clots can also affect the placenta, making it almost impossible for an egg to become implanted.
During pregnancy some women develop blood clots due to changes in blood circulation, which generally affect the legs. Even though blood clots are less common during pregnancy it can be very dangerous for both mom and baby, this is why blood thinners are necessary for a healthy pregnancy.
During childbirth, blood clotting is necessary to limit the blood loss from the mother; therefore some women may actually be taken off their blood thinner during the last stages of their pregnancy.
Depending on the blood thinners prescribed, some can be taken while breastfeeding. Many blood thinners have shown no side effects in breastfed babies.