Warfarin is a commonly prescribed anticoagulant (blood thinner). It is used to prevent clots caused by an abnormal heart rhythm, after a heart attack or stroke, or following surgery. Warfarin can save your life. However, like all drugs, it can be harmful if not used correctly.
Patients who receive warfarin therapy also receive a lot of information, including information on when to take the drug, what side effects to expect, what to eat, etc.
But don’t be intimidated! There is an easy-to-follow principle called “B.E.S.T.” that can help guide you. A great new video from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality shows how you can take the B.E.S.T. approach, which is also described below:
Be careful: Anticoagulants work by decreasing the thickness of your blood. That’s good to prevent clots, but it also means you’ll bleed more easily if hurt. Be careful when participating in sports, completing household repairs, or other physical activities. If you do get hurt, seek medical attention if significant bleeding occurs. Also, report any unusual bruising to your pharmacist or physician.
Eat right: Eating healthy is always important, but even more so when you are taking warfarin. Foods high in Vitamin K, such as green leafy vegetables like spinach, brussel sprouts, broccoli, and mustard greens, can interfere with warfarin. You can still eat these foods, but it’s important that you not change how much you eat.
Stick to a routine: It’s very important that you take warfarin as prescribed. Don’t skip doses or change the dose unless your doctor tells you to. Establish a routine by using a pill-reminder box or by taking the drug at the same time every day. Also, tell your doctor and pharmacist if you start or stop taking another prescription or nonprescription medication or a supplement.
Test regularly: Your doctor will schedule routine blood tests to monitor your response to warfarin. These tests ensure that the drug is working and help prevent adverse effects. Few people like needles, but these blood tests are an important part of your care. A little discomfort is a small price to pay for your health and safety!
If you’d like to know more, I encourage you to watch the B.E.S.T. video mentioned above. You can also learn more about warfarin by reading the drug information contained here on SafeMedication.com.
Cynthia Reilly, B.S. Pharm., is a pharmacist and Director of the Practice Development Division for the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists