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Blood Thinners or Anticoagulants? What is the Difference?

By Janelle Larsen, APRN November 28, 2018 Posted in: Heart Health

Why do I need a blood thinner? What is an INR? Why do some people with blood thinners need an INR test and others do not?

Reasons Why You Need a Blood Thinning Drug

Blood thinners or anticoagulants are medications that prevent blood clots from forming. You may be prescribed a blood thinner for various reasons. These include:

  • Stroke or heart attack
  • Blood clots in the legs or lungs
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Mechanical heart valve

There are several different anticoagulants. Your specific health condition determines which anticoagulant your doctor will prescribe. Not all blood thinners require a blood test.

INR tests and blood thinners

One medication, Warfarin (brand names Coumadin and Jantoven) will require you to regularly get a blood test called an INR. An INR measures how long it takes for your blood to clot. When on Warfarin, your target INR range is between 2 and 3.5, depending on your medical condition. Your Warfarin dosage may change depending on what your INR is.

Warfarin interacts with certain foods and medications, including:

  • Alcohol
  • Foods, especially those rich in Vitamin K which is found mostly in green leafy vegetables
  • Some antibiotics and various other medications

This does not mean you can not eat foods with Vitamin K. Just remember to keep your diet consistent and not make any major changes. Because Warfarin interacts with some medications, be sure to inform your health care provider who is managing your INR about any new prescription medications or over the counter medications you are taking.

It is important that you take your blood thinner as prescribed and notify your health care provider if you have any unusual signs of bleeding. The American Heart Association has a website for further information on anticoagulants.


Janelle Larsen, APRN
Janelle Larsen, APRN

Janelle Larsen, APRN works at CHI Health Nebraska Heart.

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