About 15 years ago, I got a call in the middle of the night… My mom had been rushed to the emergency room. She was unable to talk, her face was drooping and she couldn’t move the right side of her body… She had suffered a stroke.
It was one of the scariest times in my life as I watched her each day, unable to do even the most basic of things for herself… from brushing her teeth, bathing, even going to the bathroom. They put my mom on medication to thin her blood and try to stop another stroke from happening.
Luckily, she slowly regained all that she lost and is healthier today than she was so many years ago. However, that experience has never left me and the fear of suffering a stroke or watching another loved one go through that tragedy has left its imprint on me.
That’s why, I was so shocked to read how dangerous those anticoagulant blood thinners they gave my mom really are — in fact, according to new information, for a lot of people, they could just as easily cause stroke instead of preventing it…
The drugs that increase rather than cut your risk of stroke
It’s not uncommon for older adults, unfortunately, to have more than one health issue. That’s why it’s important to make sure doctors know all the medications you take… in case of problems caused by drug interactions.
But what about disease interactions? For these folks, polypharmacy — taking multiple drugs and having more than one health problem — could be downright deadly, as researchers at University College of discovered…
The research team set out to discover whether those anticoagulant prescription medications given to patients to supposedly prevent stroke actually helped or harmed, especially in light of other medical conditions the patients might have – like chronic kidney disease of irregular heartbeat.
So, they followed nearly 7,000 patients who suffered from these conditions – half of whom were on blood thinners and half not – for a period of almost 17 months.
Here’s what they found…
They found those on the medication were 2.6 times as likely as those not on blood thinners to have a stroke, and 2.4 times as likely to have a hemorrhage, or problems like bleeding in the brain.
So, in less than 17 months, those drugs meant to decrease risk of stroke more than doubled the patients’ risk of severe, life-threatening medical emergencies for some patients.
Thanks to the results of the study, the researchers concluded that, “In this particular group, their medication seems to do the opposite of its intended effect.”
Reducing your risk of stroke naturally
Of course there are people who have also been helped by blood thinners, so if your doctor suggests them, hear him or her out. Just make sure the doctor is aware of any other health problems you may have. But still, there are other drugs, besides this one, that can have problematic effects…
You may have heard that proton pump inhibitors — medicines used to treat acid reflux — can greatly increase your risk of stroke.
So what can you do?
Well, if you are seeing more than one doctor for different health problems, make sure you communicate about all your medications and problems with them.
But, truthfully, when I get information like this, it gives me more resolve than ever to take as much care of my heart health and blood pressure as I can. Some of the things I do to keep from being at high stroke risk include…
- Promoting healthy blood pressure – High blood pressure can double or even quadruple your risk of stroke . You can help decrease that risk if you eat a healthy diet, with plenty of fish oils and other nutrients that promote healthy arteries, blood flow and blood pressure, like vitamin K2, grape seed extract and green tea extract.
- Exercise regularly – Being overweight is another risk factor for stroke and losing just 10 pounds can make a big difference. Watch your calorie intake and be sure to increase your activity level to improve your chances of dropping those extra pounds. Walking is a great exercise that doesn’t make your blood pressure go up, like some strenuous exercise can.
- Limit alcohol intake – Drinking more than two drinks a day significantly increase you stroke risk so only drink in moderation if at all.
- Blood-thinning drugs designed to cut stroke risk may actually increase it — The Guardian
- 7 things you can do to prevent a stroke — Harvard University