Heart Health

Blood Thinners or Anticoagulants? What is the Difference?

November 28, 2018

Blood Thinners or Anticoagulants? What is the Difference?

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

Reasons You May Need a Blood Thinning Medication

Blood thinners or anticoagulants are medicines to prevent blood clots from forming. You may be prescribed a blood thinner for different reasons.  Some of these reasons include:

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

There are several different anticoagulant medicines.  Your specific medical condition will determine which anticoagulant your health care provider will put you on.  Not all blood thinning medications require blood test to be done.

INR Tests and Blood Thinners

One medication, Warfarin (brand names of Coumadin and Jantoven) will require you to get a blood test regularly called an INR.  An INR measures how long it takes for your blood to clot.  When on Warfarin your goal 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.

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