Anticoagulants, or blood thinners, are a type of prescription medication taken to prevent and/or dissolve blood clots that have formed in the body. Because these clots can block blood flow to essential organs including the heart, lungs, and brain, they can do serious damage if left untreated.
Some of the severe health problems that can occur include strokes, heart attacks, and embolisms. Individuals who have recently undergone lower extremity surgery or have been diagnosed with an arrhythmia like atrial fibrillation are often prescribed anticoagulants to lower the risk of blood clots forming and causing the more severe health issues mentioned above.
As with any medication – over-the-counter or prescribed – it’s important to be aware of the potentially harmful interactions that can occur from certain lifestyle aspects, foods and medications. Even with the necessary precautions taken to avoid any adverse effects, newer anticoagulants on the market today can have insufficient warnings putting patients at greater risk. For example, there have been over 18,000 Xarelto suits and more than 4,000 Pradaxa lawsuits filed because these anticoagulants have caused severe bleeding and even death.
With these aspects in mind, avoid the following five things when taking blood thinners.
1. Foods Rich in Vitamin K
Specifically for individuals taking the blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin), vitamin K-rich foods like spinach, brussels sprouts, kale and even green tea can counteract the drug’s effectiveness.
Why vitamin K? This organic compound naturally plays a huge role in our blood’s ability to clot, and if regularly ingested while on blood thinners, it can essentially reverse the medication’s anticoagulation effects.
However, don’t eliminate vitamin K entirely from your diet! There are many healthy foods that include the nutrient. Instead, stay consistent with how much of the vitamin you’re ingesting and choose vegetables with lower amounts of vitamin K like tomatoes, carrots, and peppers.
Although you don’t have to cut out alcohol from your diet completely, it’s best to drink only in moderation. Binge drinking, defined as having four or more drinks within two hours, can cause fluctuations in the length of time it takes your blood to clot. It also increases your risk of falling as your coordination is impaired while under the influence.
When a person is on blood thinners, a simple fall can cause severe bruising or internal bleeding. This is especially dangerous for those taking Xarelto, an anticoagulant for which there is no antidote to reverse its anti-clotting properties if one does suffer a serious injury.
3. Contact Sports
Similar to alcohol’s ability to cause internal injuries by way of trips and falls, contact sports also pose a serious threat since there’s an increased risk that the athlete will suffer internal bleeding resulting from a fall or other injury like a blow to the head.
Instead of high-impact sports and activities that could cause you to overexert yourself or lead to an accident, choose less vigorous exercise options instead like swimming, biking, and walking. These have a much lower risk of falls and other contact injuries that could potentially be life-threatening to someone on blood thinners.
4. Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS)
If you’ve recently been prescribed blood thinners, steer clear of NSAIDs like aspirin and ibuprofen. This family of over-the-counter medication can double your risk of internal bleeding. Remember, just because something can be bought easily in a drug store, that doesn’t mean it’s okay to take it without checking what interactions it could have
Even if you think one dose of a NSAID won’t matter, think again. According to Health24, a quarter of major bleeds occur within 8 days of taking the pain medication, and some can even happen within a single dose.
If you’re still desperate for some type of pain relief, a safe alternative medication to take is acetaminophen, such as the popular brand-name drug Tylenol.
5. Grapefruit Juice
Although grapefruit and grapefruit juice have major health benefits that derive from the fruit being packed with nutrients like vitamin C and potassium, it’s best to steer clear of this food while on blood thinners. Similar to vitamin K, the compounds found in grapefruit and grapefruit juice can slow down the anti-coagulation process carried out by blood thinners.
Still craving a citrus beverage? Reach instead for a safer option like orange juice that won’t interact with the drug.
Stay Aware and Stay Safe!
If you’ve recently been prescribed blood thinners, be aware of the side effects that are associated with them. Pay attention to any bodily changes and consult your doctor if you experience severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing, arm or leg pain, or blurred vision.
By taking note of how you’re feeling and avoiding the five things above, your prescribed anticoagulants should allow you to live a normal lifestyle.