Under normal conditions, the clotting mechanism in your blood is a most welcome protection against excessive bleeding. The formation of a clot is your body’s way of containing the damage, getting the necessary resources in for repairs, and then dissolving once the area is healed.
But not all clotting is this advantageous. Sometimes the body’s best protection can turn into its biggest problem, as can be the case with blood clotting, which is where blood thinners come in.
At Lakewood Cardiovascular Consultants, interventional cardiologist Dr. Erick E. Calderon and his team specialize in the complex issues that face your cardiovascular health. Our goal is to help our patients in Bradenton and Sarasota, Florida, live long and happy lives through comprehensive management of the many problems that can threaten your heart health.
As part of our wide array of tools, blood thinners play an important role for many of our patients. Here’s a look at blood thinners and how they help millions of people avoid serious problems like stroke and heart attack.
Stop the clot
The first thing we should note is that blood thinners don’t exactly do what their name implies. These medications don’t thin your blood; they work by preventing clots from developing, or existing clots from growing bigger.
The type of blood thinner we use, Coumadin® or the NOAC’s (for novel oral anticoagulant agents) such as Xarelto, Eliquis or Pradaxa, is designed to stop the formation of clots that can cause a stroke, pulmonary emboli, or other serious conditions if they form in your legs. Most often, we prescribe blood thinners to our patients who:
- Had heart-valve replacement surgery
- Have an irregular or rapid heartbeat, which is called atrial fibrillation
- Have already had a heart attack or stroke
- Have problems with deep vein thrombosis
Coumadin is a daily medication, and we monitor you very closely when you first start taking it in order to ensure that we strike the right balance in your blood. We want your blood to flow freely throughout your body, without forming dangerous clots, but we don’t want to trade one problem for another, namely excessive bleeding.
Rest assured, we perform simple prick tests to measure your levels and make any adjustments we feel are necessary. All NOAC’s have been individually tested against Coumadin, and have been shown to be #1 safer and #2 more effective than Coumadin.
A lifetime or part-time?
Many of our patients ask whether they need to be on blood thinners for the rest of their lives, but there’s no single answer to this question. If you’ve had mechanical heart-valve replacement surgery, we put you on blood thinners afterward as a matter of precaution. In some cases, if a biological valve was used, we can take you off the thinners.
If, however, you’ve had a stroke or pulmonary emboli, it’s important that we protect you from another. Odds are that, in these cases, you will remain on blood thinners for the rest of your life.
Living with blood thinners isn’t a life sentence; it just takes a little getting used to. Yes, you need to be mindful of injuries that cause bleeding, but we can also quickly adjust your medications if you need to undergo a medical procedure.
You also should watch your diet and avoid foods that may counteract your Coumadin (green leafy vegetables, for example). We’ll be sure to go over all of these instructions with you.
Ultimately, life on blood thinners is very manageable, and we’re happy to sit down with you to go over all of the details. Simply give us a call or use the online scheduling tool on this website to set up an appointment.