Warfarin (Coumadin) has been the foundation of blood thinning therapy for several heart/vascular and blood related diseases in recent decades. Despite the introduction of many newer blood thinners, warfarin is still prescribed and consumed.
Warfarin was introduced in the 1940s as a pesticide and was later found to be an effective blood thinner in humans.
This medication is also famous for its unpredictable blood level fluctuations affected by nutrition, medication, herbal products and the degree of adherence with recommended warfarin (Coumadin) dosage and instructions.
There are major mishaps causing substantial complications and adverse effects with warfarin that can be prevented. Some of the most important ones are listed below.
Avoiding them could significantly reduce the chances of warfarin related bleeding risk and hospitalization.
1. Your doctor’s instructions will protect you
It is imperative that the physician’s instructions are followed as diligently as possible. Warfarin can be a helpful medication but at the same time if suggested instructions are not followed it could result in unnecessary and preventable complications.
The dosage and timing of taking warfarin is essential and can make a huge difference in keeping the blood levels stable. It is usually recommended to take the medication at night. Sometimes it is necessary to stop the medication for a couple of days and then to restart it again.
Many times repeat blood work is suggested. Elderly patients who have difficulty understanding the instructions of their doctor may need to ask one of their family members or friends to help them in managing the treatment.
2. Downplaying symptoms and signs of bleeding can be dangerous
Many patients are reluctant to call their physician with what they believe are banalities. However, it is important that any sign of bleeding be reported.
Nasal or rectal bleeding may start very mildly but this situation can worsen quickly and managing it may become more complicated. It can be a big mistake not to call your doctor’s office at the first sign of bleeding.
3. On new medication, supplement or herbal product then grab the phone
Large numbers of the population believe that supplements and herbal products are safe with no side effects. It is important to know that supplements and herbal products do have side effects and also can interact with other prescription medication especially warfarin.
Please let your doctor know if you have started any new product. Not doing this can be a major mistake that causes unnecessary complications and inconvenience.
4. Warfarin and alcohol are not good friends
Drinking alcohol on warfarin should be monitored very carefully. Less is better but most importantly you should keep the alcohol intake consistent (usually not more than two drinks for men and one drink for women), binge drinking can cause problems, nothing new, right?
5. Call your doctor if feeling sick
Any longer lasting sickness as simple as diarrhea, vomiting, cold and mild fever should be reported to your physician. They can change the metabolism of warfarin in your body and cause major fluctuations of blood levels.
With new healthcare changes and availability of so-called store clinics access to antibiotics have increased. Many antibiotics could make the blood thinner and cause significant issues.
You should try to seek your own doctor’s help whenever possible. If a medication is prescribed by somebody other than your doctor, he or she should be informed as early as possible.
6. Your baby will appreciate it
No women should be on warfarin if there is any chance of becoming or being pregnant. Taking warfarin while pregnant can be very dangerous to the fetus. Speak to your doctor and stop the medication if there is any chance of pregnancy.
7. Get familiar with your food
Foods high in vitamin K could lessen the effectiveness of warfarin/coumadin. Therefore, it is important for you to know which foods contain high levels of Vitamin K. Some of the most important ones are listed here.
There is a significant misconception in the patient population who believe that consuming green vegetables is not recommended for patients on warfarin. This notion is wrong. You can continue eating your green vegetables as long as the amount is consistent every day.
Foods containing high Vitamin K include:
- Brussels sprouts
- Turnip greens
- Beef liver
- Chicken liver
Don’t be afraid of using portable INR machines
The use of portable INR machines can save you considerable inconvenience. You may want to read my article about these machines. There has been slow acceptance in using these machines in the medical community but I am sure that it will improve in the future.