Around 2 to 3 million people use blood thinners each year. For people who’ve had heart attacks or strokes, or live with conditions like heart disease and deep vein thrombosis, they’re often recommended.
Are they actually safe, however? And what are the benefits of using blood thinners? Keep reading on to find out everything you need to know about blood thinners — could they work for you?
What Are Blood Thinners?
The first thing you should know is that blood thinners do not literally ‘thin’ your blood.
They work by stopping blood clots from forming and can stop existing clots from growing too. For this reason, they’re often prescribed to people with health conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels, and they can be prescribed after certain surgeries too.
There are two different types of blood thinners to be aware of. The first type are anticoagulants — these most often come as pills and prevent your blood from clotting.
In contrast, the second type are antiplatelets. They tend to come as pills too and target your platelets.
Are They Safe?
As with taking any medication, there’s a certain degree of risk involved when taking blood thinners.
They can lead to serious bleeding, which is to be expected given that they prevent clots from forming. Side effects can be mild — think internal bleeding — but can occasionally be more serious, like hemorrhagic stroke.
There are some foods to avoid when taking blood thinners. Foods with high amounts of vitamin K can mess with the way your blood thinners work, so leafy green veggies like spinach, kale, and cabbage should be avoided.
So too should saturated fats and cultured food with live bacteria.
Blood thinners and alcohol are not a good combination either. Alcohol can either increase or decrease the function of anticoagulants — you might be at risk of excessive bleeding, for example. At the same time, regular drinkers may need a higher dose as they metabolize the medication faster, and this can also be dangerous.
Benefits of Blood Thinners
Despite the risks of taking blood thinners, the advantages of taking them will outweigh the risks if you need them.
The main benefit is that they reduce the risk of life-threatening clots developing. Deep vein thrombosis, when blood clots form deep in the veins, can be incredibly dangerous, while clots can even travel to the lungs, which leads to a pulmonary embolism.
Then there’s atrial fibrillation — this is a type of irregular heartbeat. People with the condition are as much as five times as likely to suffer a stroke as the general population, and people with atrial fibrillation who have a stroke are more likely to be permanently disabled as a result too. Check out this site for info on the best blood thinners for atrial fibrillation.
Are Blood Thinners Right for Me?
If you suffer from one of the conditions mentioned above, blood thinners may be right for you. Yes, they aren’t without risk, but the benefits can outweigh the risks — potentially even saving your life.
It’s something that you should discuss with your physician, to get their views too.
If you’re looking for more health advice, be sure to check out some of our other posts.