What medications can reduce my risk of stroke?

The blood thinner Coumadin (generic name warfarin) helps 2 million people in North America every day lower their risk of stroke -- especially people with abnormal heartbeat (atrial fibrillation). It's a tough drug to take and tougher still to make sure it does more good than harm. Blood tests, sometimes more than once a week, are needed to make sure you aren't in danger of internal bleeding or a blood clot.

I am delighted to tell you that things are changing. An international research group is putting together a computer program formula based on genetic testing, body mass index, age, and gender that will customize a warfarin schedule just for you. (You'll still have dietary restrictions. No wheat germ, Brussels sprouts, spinach, or green tea, for example.)

In addition, newer drugs are replacing warfarin. They don't require regular blood tests to check dosing and they have no dietary restrictions. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved three. Their drawback? Unlike warfarin, they lack an antidote, so they may cause prolonged bleeding (if you cut yourself, for example).

If you're prescribed blood thinners, follow instructions carefully, pay attention to blood test results, and talk to your doc about what is best for you. When taken properly, they can be real lifesavers.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.