Blood thinners: what you need to know

Blood thinners: what you need to know

Despite collectively being called ‘blood thinners’, anticoagulant drugs such as warfarin do not actually thin your blood. Most commonly prescribed to people with pulmonary conditions to prevent heart attacks and strokes, they work by blocking vitamin K, which causes blood to clot. Adversely, this renders users hyper prone to bleed from small falls, bumps, knocks and cuts. If you are on blood-thinning medication, limit this related risk with a little foresight and some simple lifestyle changes.

Exercise selectively
Don’t let blood-thinning medication stop you from staying fit – just opt for sports with a low risk of injury. While contact sports like football and rugby are a no-go, walking and swimming are enjoyable and safe ways to stay in shape.

Cross-medicate wisely
Check with your pharmacist or doctor before taking any additional prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications, vitamins or supplements. Even simple pain relievers can contain aspirin or ibuprofen, both of which can increase your risk of bleeding or make you bleed more in the event of an injury.

Sharp protection
Prevent small nicks turning into significant bleeds by safeguarding yourself from sharp objects. For example, avoid going bare foot, use an electric razor rather than a traditional razor for shaving, wear gloves when gardening or cooking with sharp knives and don’t clip your nails too close to the skin.

Adopt delicate dental care
Gums are fragile, so it is essential to adjust your dental hygiene routines so they don’t bleed. Change hard or medium toothbrushes to soft ones, and brush slowly and gently rather than rigorously. Use waxed dental floss too – it’s softer than uncoated varieties and less likely to slice your gums.

Know your nose first aid
Blood thinners increase the risk of nosebleeds, so be wise to how to manage them if they occur. The best way to stop a nosebleed is to sit down and firmly pinch the soft part of your nose (just above your nostrils) for 10-15 minutes. Lean forward and breathe through your mouth – this will drain blood down your nose instead of down the back of your throat. If you have an ice pack to hand, gently place it on the bridge of your nose. Remain upright rather than lying down – it will reduce the blood pressure in the blood vessels of your nose and discourage further bleeding. If you continue to bleed for more than 30 minutes, seek medical attention immediately.

Be bruise alert
If you fall or bang yourself hard, don’t assume you are fine if there are no visible signs of blood. Check your body for major bruising – it is an indication that you are bleeding under the skin. Be vigilant with bangs to the head too – they can cause an internal bleed under your skull. Both are cause for concern and warrant immediate medical attention.

Get diet wise
Do your homework on food and drinks that have a thinning affect on blood, and moderate your intake of them. For example, alcohol, certain herbs and spices (such as thyme, ginger and cinnamon) and particular fruits (such as cranberries, grapes and raisins) all boast blood-thinning properties. In excessive amounts, they have the potential to make your blood dangerously thin if you are on anticoagulant medication.

Be prepared
Stock up on bandages, dressings and plasters, and carry a supply with you in case you cut yourself or experience a bleeding episode on the go. Carry a quantity of styptic powder with you too. This antihemorrhagic agent will effectively seal wounds and limit blood loss while you seek medical assistance if necessary.


AXA PPP Healthcare
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