A large number of people around the world depend upon blood thinners, medically known as anticoagulants, to prevent the formation of life-threatening blood clots. These medications, like any other, have some side effects, but here’s the catch: stopping blood thinners can have inevitable drastic medical consequences as well. So what happens when you stop taking blood thinners? Let’s get into it.
What are Blood Thinners?
Blood thinners are anticoagulants that prevent blood clots that may disrupt blood flow to the heart, lungs, or brain. Such blood clots can even cause life-threatening strokes, and thus anticoagulants can prove life-saving at times. Patients can take these medications either intravenously or orally. Individuals suffering from heart diseases, including irregular heartbeat or rhythms and heart valve disease, are typically prescribed blood thinners. Taking these medications exactly as prescribed is pivotal: taking too much or too little can have adverse medical complications.
What do blood thinners do?
Certain blood thinners prevent the coagulation of blood cells in arteries and veins to prevent blood from thickening. Such medications which keep blood cells from sticking together are known as antiplatelet drugs. Some common antiplatelet drugs include clopidogrel (Plavix), ticlopidine (Ticlid), dipyridamole (Persantine), and aspirin.
Other anticoagulants, in contrast, work by increasing the time required for the formation of blood clots and are known as anticoagulant drugs. They are typically prescribed to people with any kind of heart disease. Some common anticoagulant drugs include heparin, enoxaparin (Lovenox), and warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven). Apixaban (Eliquis), rivaroxaban (Xarelto), and dabigatran (Pradaxa) are some medically advanced forms of anticoagulants with lesser risk of bleeding and side effects.
Blood thinners are prescribed via a meticulous process where a doctor carefully monitors an individual’s international normalized ratio (INR). INR is the rate at which blood clots form in your body and varies from individual to individual depending upon their medical circumstances and overall health. Keeping within your INR range prevents your blood from either clotting too quickly or bleeding excessively. Before prescribing you the appropriate dosage, your doctor may also run a prothrombin time (PT) test. Steering away from this prescribed dosage brings about serious medical consequences.
Can stopping blood thinners cause strokes?
There is no doubt about the effectiveness of blood thinners, but stopping their usage can increase the risk of blood clots. Since they are prescribed for the prevention of blood clots, a stop in their use can augment the risk yet again. Such clotting risks get quite complicated a majority of the time, making it harder for healthcare professionals to manage them.
A great majority of people are treated with blood-thinning warfarin all around the globe, but they risk the sudden formation of blood clots if they stop this medication. This blood clot can form in any of the major organs in the body. It may even travel to the brain, causing partial or complete paralysis, stroke, lack of oxygen to the brain, and several other medical complications. Such blood clots can even prove fatal. Statistics from extensive research showed that “for every 1,000 patients during and after treatment with warfarin showed a significant increase in the number of blood clots in patients shortly after the patients stopped taking the medicine”.
The journal Science Nordic warns against these possible side effects and states that a sudden stop in blood-thinning drugs can exponentially increase the risk of blood clots in the brain, which may even be fatal. The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) Quarterwatch Reports for July 2017 listed oral anticoagulant drugs to have the most significant drug safety problems. Such drugs need to be meticulously weaned out of the body under careful instruction and supervision of a trained medical practitioner or through a cautious detox program.
Are there any natural blood thinners?
Instead of taking the usual prescription medicines for blood thinning, you can adopt a healthy lifestyle by including some natural blood thinners in your diet. Certain herbs and foods contain natural anticoagulant properties and can prevent the blood from clotting. However, it is essential to check in with your doctor before taking such foods to chalk out the quantity and kinds of foods you should be taking along with your prescription medication. Celery seeds, ginger, aniseed, garlic, and foods rich in Vitamin E such as mangoes, kiwis, peanut butter, spinach, almonds, broccoli, sunflower seeds, and tomatoes are rich blood thinners. Vitamin E enriched oils such as soybean, corn, wheat germ, and olive also make effective anticoagulants. Intake of such food can be beneficial for your health, especially if you suffer from heart disease or are at high risk for stroke. However, it is essential to consume them with caution, lest they cause too much blood thinning.