We live in a wonderful age where the advancements of medical technology have extended our lives by several years. We have advanced surgical procedures and can fix many ailments by just taking a pill. However, with all these advances also comes many problems.
One of the biggest issues facing the population is how dangerous prescription drugs can be. While medications have the potential to save lives and improve our quality of life, they can also have some awful side effects. More than likely, you’ve heard about the opioid epidemic, but other drugs can be just as dangerous. One of these classes of drugs is blood thinners.
What Are Blood Thinners?
Blood thinners are medications prescribed for patients who are at risk of developing blood clots. They can be administered after surgery or for patients who have a sedentary lifestyle. Blood thinners include warfarin or Coumadin, Heparin and Xarelto, among others, and Xarelto and warfarin are being called the most dangerous.
Blood thinners have evolved to become more effective. Aspirin is the most common and widely used blood thinner, and it doesn’t require a prescription to take. However, it doesn’t work for everyone, which is why other types of blood thinners have been developed.
Warfarin, or Coumadin, has been the go-to blood thinner since the 1950s. Since then, new blood thinners have been developed and are currently being prescribed to patients. Unlike warfarin, many of these new blood thinners don’t require monthly blood tests to ensure they are working correctly, but each one works differently for each patient. For example, warfarin works better than some of the newer medications for patients who have mechanical heart valves or kidney failure. However, all blood thinners have their dangers.
What Makes Blood Thinners Dangerous?
Blood thinners act by making your blood unable to clot normally. Clotting is important when the body gets injured so that the bleeding stops. If your blood didn’t clot, something as minor as a paper cut could cause you to bleed to death.
However, blood clots can form in parts of your body even when you aren’t injured. It’s possible for these clots to then travel into your lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism. Blood clots can also travel into the heart, causing a heart attack, or into the brain, causing a stroke. All of these are life-threatening issues. If you are susceptible to blood clots, your doctor will prescribe blood thinners to prevent any potential issues.
Since blood thinners slow down your blood’s natural ability to clot, getting an injury — even a minor one — can become life-threatening because your body won’t be able to stop the bleeding. Some prescription blood thinners can be reversed by administering Vitamin K, which then allows your blood to clot normally.
Blood thinners on their own can be harmful, but the risk factor increases when they are mixed with other substances, including other prescription drugs, alcohol or recreational drugs.
What Can Be Done to Decrease the Dangers of Blood Thinners?
If your doctor prescribed blood thinners for you, there’s probably a good reason. The best-case scenario is they will work for you the way they are supposed to, and you won’t have any adverse reactions. However, the best way to ensure this happens is to follow a few rules when taking prescribed blood thinners.
Find out exactly why you are being prescribed the medication so you know why you are at risk. Asking questions and being informed about your health and your medications is never a bad thing. Having open dialogue with your doctor or pharmacist is also a good way to obtain that information and to have everyone on the same page when it comes to your health.
All prescription medications come with information about the dose, ingredients and how often you are supposed to take them during the day. When it comes to blood thinners, you’ll need to follow those instructions to the letter. Doing this will ensure that you aren’t abusing your medication and that you aren’t putting yourself at greater risk.
Your medication should also come with information about side effects and about which individuals shouldn’t take the drug. Read through all directions carefully to make sure the medication is right for you. If you don’t understand or have questions about the side effects, talk to your doctor or pharmacist so you completely understand the risks.
Avoid anything that might interact with your prescription medication. This can include other medications, food and drinks. As mentioned earlier, Vitamin K is a good way to counteract the effects of blood thinners, so you’ll want to avoid foods rich in this nutrient or taking supplements that have Vitamin K — otherwise, your medication won’t be as effective as it’s supposed to be.
Alcohol also thins your blood, so you’ll want to avoid drinking while taking blood thinners. If you do, it could lead to potentially serious problems. If you take more than one prescription medication, you’ll want to talk to your doctor or pharmacist about whether they will interact with one another and if that will cause health issues.
When it comes to your health, you need to be your biggest advocate, although your doctor will know what processes and medications will work best for your condition. Communicate with your health provider so you get the best care and know all the risks involved in taking prescription medication.