Blood Thinners 101
Blood thinners, particularly Coumadin, prevent strokes by helping to prevent blood clots from forming in the chambers of the heart and blood vessels. Studies have shown that Coumadin can protect you from a stroke if you have mechanical heart valves, atrial fibrillation, or had an extensive heart attack (scar tissue weakens contraction of the left ventricle, which may allow blood to stagnate and clot).
Blood thinners are also prescribed for atrial fibrillation, mechanical heart valves, and prevention of clot formation after cardiac surgeries or events.
The most commonly prescribed blood thinner is Coumadin (warfarin). Others include:
- Lovenox (enoxaparin sodium),
- Normiflo (ardeparin sodium), and
- Orgaran (danaparoid sodium).
Like all medication, blood thinners come with a wide range of side effects, including:
- Excessive bleeding when you overdose, weakness, cold sensations, itchy skin, fever, abdominal discomfort.
- Easy bruisability and bleeding gums from brushing teeth.
- Wounds and cuts take longer to heal.
While anticoagulants help prevent thrombotic and embolic strokes, the risk of a hemorrhagic stroke is higher for those on Coumadin. Also, you have to watch your supplement intake while on a blood thinner, as some vitamins and herbs (such as vitamin E, aspirin, or Ginkgo biloba) can thin your blood too much. If you’re on a blood thinner, limit supplemental vitamin E to 400 IU per day, and avoid taking aspirin or Ginkgo biloba.
While I tend to recommend natural treatments over medications, there are a few instances when you can simply need the prescription. When it comes to blood thinners, Coumadin is the best therapy to help prevent blood clots if you have mechanical heart valves, if you’ve suffered an embolic stroke, or if you have recurring atrial fibrillation.
On the "middle of the road" side, aspirin may be used in some cases if you cannot take Coumadin. And if you have “lone” atrial fibrillation (occasional bouts with a healthy heart) or are otherwise at low risk of developing blood clots, I recommend the following natural blood thinners:
- Fish oil (2–3 grams daily)
- Garlic (1–2 grams daily in capsule form)
- Nattokinase (100 mg daily)
- Vitamin E as mixed tocopherols (200–300 IU daily)
- Bromelain, an enzyme derived from pineapple (600 mg daily)
For additional advice on natural ways to prevent blood clots or improve blood circulation, visit www.drsinatra.com.
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Dr. Stephen Sinatra is a highly respected and sought-after cardiologist and nutritionist with more than 30 years of clinical practice, research, and study. His integrative approach to heart health focuses on reducing inflammation in the body and maximizing the heart's ability to produce and use energy. More About Dr. Sinatra
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