Experts don’t know precisely why, but blood coagulates more easily as people age, increasing the likelihood of stroke, heart attack or pulmonary embolism. To prevent this, doctors often prescribe one of the many types of blood thinners so caregivers will need to know the following diet, exercise and safety tips to best advocate for a healthy lifestyle.
Anyone taking blood thinners will need to adjust to the new medicine, considering everything from broccoli salad to nail clippers. Some foods, other medications or supplements may interfere with the life-saving effects of anticoagulants – the other term for blood thinners – rendering them more powerful or less effective against unhealthy clotting that may endanger brains, hearts, major arteries and lungs.
Diet considerations for older adults taking blood thinners
Caregivers want to fix healthy, plant-centered meals, but some foods high in vitamin K may interfere with certain blood thinners, decreasing the effectiveness of the medicine.
Tip 1: We may not serve up kale chips, but dark leafy greens in excess boast abundant amounts of vitamin K (as do full-fat dairy products). While shaved Brussels sprouts salad tastes fabulous, as do strawberry-arugula or spinach salad, roasted broccoli with parmesan, and tabbouleh with lots of lemon and parsley, and aren’t evil, it’s not wise to incorporate them into the menu too often.
The standing advice is to maintain healthy eating habits without increasing or decreasing servings of dark green veggies. Consider using lower-fat dairy products, which contain much lower levels of vitamin K. Ask your doctor for an appointment with a dietician as well as if vitamin K interferes with the specific prescription. Not all anticoagulants work the same.
Tip 2: Grapefruit juice can affect one popular blood thinner, Warfarin (along with some cholesterol-lowering drugs such as statins). Grapefruit in high amounts allows more of the drug to enter the body’s system, intensifying its strength.
Tip 3: Moderate or avoid alcohol intake based on the doctor’s advice. One glass of wine or beer may be okay, but alcohol increases fall risks and may interfere with blood thinners.
OTC medication and supplement interactions with blood thinners
Tip 4: Garlic, Asian ginseng, St. John’s wort, waw palmetto, evening primrose, cCoenzyme Q10 and danshen are among the top supplements that Mayo Clinic advises patients on Warfarin to avoid. Many of these also thin the blood, which can increase the risk of bleeding. Some other common supplements that interfere include grapeseed oil, turmeric, ginger, ginkgo biloba and vitamin E.
Tip 5: Over-the-counter medicines can also cause further bleeding, especially any that contain aspirin. The government Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality provides a list of medicines that interact including the name brand and generic versions of Advil (ibuprofen), Aleve (naproxen), Alka-Seltzer (aspirin), Excedrin (acetaminophen), ex-lax, Midol (acetaminophen), Motrin (ibuprofen), Nuprin (ibuprofen), Pamprin HB (acetaminophen), Pepto Bismol, Sine-Off (acetaminophen), Tagamet HB (cimetidine) and Tylenol (acetaminophen).
Tip 6: It’s best practice to let every doctor caring for your loved one know what medicines are prescribed since doctors should be well-versed on which prescriptions may interfere with others. For instance, makers of the new Alzheimer’s drug Leqembi (lecanemab) urge doctors to monitor patients on blood thinners to ensure interactions won’t endanger lives.
Exercise considerations for older adults on blood thinners
Tip 7: Stay active but ask about high-intensity activities such as running. Exercise and a healthy diet will help prevent both mental and physical ailments. Though most older people will avoid high-impact sports such as hockey, soccer, skiing and football, any exercise where a fall is likely could trigger internal bleeding. Since blood thinners may result in a slightly elevated risk of internal bleeding, any fall is a risk. If your loved one falls, call the doctor, even if there is no evidence of bruising.
Tip 8: The best exercises for those on blood thinners are tai chi, pilates, yoga, weight training, walking, biking and swimming. These activities can elevate heart rates and strengthen the heart and lungs, which improves all health systems.
How seniors can improve balance and stability with tai chi
Adaptive Yoga: A healthy and enjoyable yoga practice for older adults
Safety for older adults taking blood thinners
Tip 9: Avoid opportunities that cause bleeding indoors. Some of the risks come from knives, scissors, nail clippers and even dental tools. Opt for electric razors, soft bristle toothbrushes, wax dental floss and safety nail clippers. (Or better yet, use a podiatrist or manicurist to trim nails, corns and calluses.) The risk of bleeding is higher, so any possible abrasion should be paired with extra caution.
Tip 10: To avoid injury outdoors, use gardening gloves. Digging in dirt can lead to unexpected lacerations and sharp gardening tools may be too risky. Wear non-skid shoes and avoid icy walks. (By the way, non-skid shoes are a great idea indoors as well.)
These small tweaks contribute to living the BEST life. BEST as in:
- Be Careful- As noted above.
- Eat Right- Eat healthily.
- Stick to a Routine- Note that taking medications at the same time daily matters. If you miss by a few hours, take the medication, but if you miss a day, don’t double up. Never skip. Never double up. Call the physician if in doubt.
- Test Regularly- Work with your physician to ensure that a patient’s blood is too thin, or clotting.