Blood thinners, which can be classified as either anti-platelet drugs or anticoagulants, are used to prevent the formation of new blood clots and the enlargement of existing blood clots. Blood thinners could be necessary to take if someone has had certain heart or blood vessel diseases, their heart valve replaced, or surgery and is at risk of blood clots. Though blood thinners can be essential to a person's treatment, it is important to remember that there can be very negative side effects associated with blood thinners. People on blood thinners should ask their healthcare provider which medicines, foods, alcohol, or other substances they take could interact negatively with the blood thinner prescribed to them and what other options could be available to them.
Warfarin, also known as Coumadin, is an anticoagulant medicine that requires a prescription. Warfarin helps prevent stroke and blood clots by decreasing the amount of clotting proteins in the blood. It is the most widely used anticoagulant in the world, but it is known to have many complications. Bleeding is the main adverse reaction associated with warfarin, though skin necrosis and hair loss can also occur. When taking warfarin, it is especially important to follow specific dietary restrictions because foods with Vitamin K counteract warfarin. It can also be hard to determine the correct dosing for each individual because of its narrow therapeutic index.
One alternative to warfarin is plavix, or clopidogrel. Plavix is an anti-platelet drug that also requires a prescription. Rather than decreasing the amount of clotting proteins in the blood, plavix blocks the platelets from sticking together. On its own, plavix can be used to prevent strokes and heart attacks in people with heart disease, but it can also be used, in conjunction with aspirin, to treat new or worsening chest pain and to help prevent blockages in blood vessels after surgical procedures. Similar to warfarin, plavix is associated with the adverse reaction of bleeding, but diarrhea and constipation can also occur.
Another prescription anticoagulant is Xarelto, which is also known as Rivaroxaban. There are many benefits of choosing Xarelto. With Xarelto, people don't have to worry about dietary restrictions or regular blood monitoring. This means that someone taking Xarelto does not have to drastically change their everyday life just to take care of their health. Bleeding is a possible adverse reaction, as with all other blood thinners. Headaches, pain or swelling at wound sites, and spinal or epidural blood clots can also occur.
Not all blood thinners must come from a prescription; there are many over-the-counter (OTC) alternatives. A popular OTC blood thinner is aspirin, which is an anti-platelet medicine that contains acetaminophen. Even though studies have shown that aspirin can help prevent a heart attack or stroke, the FDA warns that taking one aspirin every day can actually be harmful. However, the American College of Cardiology has found that it is optimal to take aspirin along with another, prescription blood thinner. This combination of aspirin and blood thinners has be proven to be very effective in reducing risk for a second stroke.