Tags: Heart Disease | heart | atrial | fibrillation | blood | thinners | anticoagulants

What Every Atrial Fibrillation Patient Needs to Know About Blood Thinners

By    |   Tuesday, 26 May 2015 12:10 PM

More than 2 million Americans have an abnormal heart rhythm known as atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation disrupts the flow of blood through the heart, causing blood to pool and clot, then travel to the brain and cause a stroke. Blood thinners, which include aspirin, warfarin, and other anticoagulation medications, can treat be used to atrial fibrillation. Here are eight things every atrial fibrillation patient needs to know about blood thinners.

1. Physicians use a formula to figure out if a patient with atrial fibrillation will develop blood clots, whether he or she needs a blood thinner and, if so, which drug he or she needs, according to healthinaging.org. The formula takes into account the patient’s age and gender and whether he or she has the key risk factors of congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, diabetes, blood vessel disease and having experienced a past stroke or mini-stroke.

2. Physicians also use formulas to predict how likely a patient is to have bleeding problems if he or she takes anticoagulation medications. According to healthinaging.org., many factors that boost patients’ risk of stroke also boost their risk of bleeding caused by anticoagulant drugs, which can make treatment decisions based on benefits versus risks difficult.

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3. In 1954, the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the blood thinner Warfarin to help lower the risk of blood clots leading to stroke. Warfarin lowers patients’ risk of atrial fibrillation-related blood clots and strokes more than either aspirin or a combination of aspirin and another blood thinner called Plavix, but warfarin may not be best for patients who are at very low risk for stroke and/or at very high risk of bleeding, said healthinaging.org.

4. Between 2010 and 2013, the FDA approved the use of the blood thinners Pradaxa, Xarelto and Eliquis to treat atrial fibrillation. Pradaxa, Xarelto and Eliquis don’t require the regular blood monitoring that warfarin does and have been found to be as good as or better than warfarin in preventing both strokes and bleeding complications in people with atrial fibrillation -- but they’re not for everyone, said healthinaging.org.

5. Patients on wWarfarin must undergo blood tests at least monthly and watch their intake of Vitamin K, a nutrient that can lessen the effectiveness of warfarin. Vitamin K can be found in leafy green vegetables such as spinach, chard and kale. No dietary issues are present with Pradaxa, Xarelto and Eliquis.

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6. Sometimes blood thinners need to be reversed quickly because of major bleeding or the need for emergency surgery. Older adults who take Warfarin often run a higher risk of bleeding than younger adults who take the medication – in part because older people tend to have additional health problems that can increase the risk and because they often take additional medications that may increase that risk.

If the effects of Warfarin need to be reversed, a patient can be given Vitamin K. However, nothing quickly reverses the blood-thinning effects of Pradaxa, Xarelto and Eliquis, according to healthimaging.org. Fortunately, the blood-thinning effects of those drugs aren’t as long-lasting as Warfarin’s.

7. While older adults run increased risks of falling, and falls can cause bleeding, that doesn’t necessarily mean older people shouldn’t use Warfarin, because it’s unusual for older patients taking the drug to experience dangerous bleeding after a fall, said healthinaging.org. Not giving Warfarin to older adults with atrial fibrillation could actually be more dangerous because it would increase their chances of having a stroke.

8. When a patient taking a blood thinner for atrial fibrillation needs a scheduled surgery or invasive procedure, his or her healthcare providers need to take the proper steps to minimize both bleeding and the formation of blood clots, according to healthinaging.org. Sometimes this involves stopping the drug at the right time before the procedure and then re-starting it at the right time after the procedure.

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More than 2 million Americans have an abnormal heart rhythm known as atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation disrupts the flow of blood through the heart, causing blood to pool and clot, then travel to the brain and cause a stroke. Blood thinners, which include aspirin,...
heart, atrial, fibrillation, blood, thinners, anticoagulants
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2015-10-26
Tuesday, 26 May 2015 12:10 PM
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