What are anticoagulants?

These drugs are also called “blood thinners.” They don’t actually thin your blood. But they can help prevent clots from forming.

Anticoagulants include:

  • apixaban (Eliquis)
  • dabigatran (Pradaxa)
  • edoxaban (Lixiana)
  • rivaroxaban (Xarelto)
  • warfarin (Coumadin)

Be aware:

  • Generic names are listed first.
  • Canadian brand names are in brackets.
  • This list doesn’t include every brand name.
  • If your prescription isn’t listed, your pharmacist is the best source for more information.
How do they work?

Blood clots (or coagulates) to stop bleeding. If clots get into your blood vessels, they can cause a heart attack or stroke. Anticoagulants prevent blood clots. They can’t break up clots that have already formed. But they may prevent existing clots from getting bigger

Blood thinners are taken by people:

  • with artificial heart valves
  • with atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat)
  • who have had a heart attack
  • who have heart diseases, such as cardiomyopathy
  • who are at risk of developing blood clots
How do I take them?

Anticoagulants can be taken as tablets, given by injection or by IV drip.

  • Warfarin is a tablet.
    • Its full effects are seen after two or three days.
  • Heparin is given by IV or injection.
    • It takes effect very quickly.
Are there any interactions?

Some medications can stop your heart medicine from working properly. They may even cause other health problems.

Blood thinners can alter your routine.

You may need regular blood tests.

  • This will make sure your blood isn’t too thin (which can lead to bleeding) or too thick (which can lead to clots).

Try to avoid cutting yourself.

  • Use an electric shaver and soft-bristled toothbrush.
  • Floss gently.
  • Wear gloves while gardening.

Avoid large helpings of dark leafy vegetables. Including:

  • Kale, collard or beet greens, spinach and Brussels sprouts.

Do not take your medication with grapefruit juice.

Blood thinners interact with many common drugs. Always tell your healthcare provider or pharmacist about any other medications you are taking. These include:

  • prescriptions
  • non-prescription drugs
  • inhalers
  • creams or ointments
  • over-the-counter or natural health products
  • alternative therapies
  • vitamins, minerals or supplements
  • herbal remedies
  • homeopathic medicines
  • traditional remedies, such as Chinese medicines
  • probiotics
  • amino acids or essential fatty acids
Are there any side effects?

Because blood thinners delay clotting, their biggest side effect is unwanted bleeding.

When to call your doctor: Bleeding can occur in the gums, urinary system or bowels. You might not realize you’re bleeding. Be on the lookout for:

  • pink in the sink when brushing your teeth or shaving
  • vomit that looks bloody or like coffee grounds
  • pink or brown urine (pee)
  • stool (poop) that’s red or black
  • nosebleeds

Listen to your body. Tell your healthcare provider if you experience any signs of stroke, bleeding or discomfort.

Ways to reduce these side effects:

  • Avoid smoking.
  • Limit alcohol.
  • Tell your dentist you take this drug before a dental cleaning or other work.
  • If you need surgery (even a simple procedure), tell your surgeon about your medication.
  • Consider delaying non-essential dental or medical procedures.

If you have side effects, talk to your pharmacist or healthcare provider.

Lifestyle changes

Healthy choices can help you manage heart disease. Get practical tips and advice from Heart & Stroke experts on how to get healthy. Learn how to:

Talk to your healthcare provider about the lifestyle changes that will benefit you the most.

Related information

Your healthcare provider or pharmacist are your best sources of information. You can also learn more about medications at any of these trusted sites.

Health Canada - Drugs and Health Products
Provides health and medical information for Canadians to maintain and improve their health.

Learn more about:

Your ministry of health also offers health resources in your province or territory. For example, Ontario’s MedsCheck program provides free pharmacist consultations. And British Columbia’s Senior Healthcare web page provides information about important health programs.

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