If you have atrial fibrillation, also known as Afib, your doctor has likely warned you that you are at a higher risk of stroke and heart disease. You are also probably already aware that keeping this condition under control requires lifestyle adjustments such as dietary restrictions, various prescription blood thinners, and in some cases medical procedures. What you may not know is that not all blood thinners are the same. Approximately one-third of patients with Afib are merely prescribed aspirin by doctors when other medications could save their lives.
Scientists recommend preventing a stroke with anticoagulants. Aspirin is often referred to as a blood thinner, but do not be fooled by your doctor’s fancy jargon. In fact, aspirin is a member of the antiplatelets medication group. Antiplatelets help prevent platelets, specific molecules within your blood, from clumping together and creating blood clots.
Is Aspirin an Anticoagulant?
While this may sound like the job of typical blood thinners, scientists such as Dr. Jonathon Hsu at the University of California suggest aspirin should not be classified as a blood thinner. He suggests anticoagulants are more appropriate for treating Afib. “Aspirin is not an anticoagulant and is not effective in preventing strokes in patients with atrial fibrillation,” confirms Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital cardiologist Dr. Samuel Wann.
Anticoagulants such as Xarelto and Warfarin focus on chemical reactions within your body in order to extend the amount of time it takes for your blood to begin clotting. Anticoagulants, particularly newer medications on the market, may be less popular due to the dangers of bleeding, the frequency of necessary blood tests, and their costs. But those costs could be worth the benefits when considering a potentially prolonged life.
Nearly half of high-risk Afib patients are wrongfully prescribed aspirin. Depending on your demographic, you may be at a higher risk of stroke than others diagnosed with this abnormal heartbeat condition. Unfortunately, many high-risk groups don’t get proper treatment. For example, women with Afib are in greater danger of a stroke than men with this condition. However, women are also more likely to get a prescription for aspirin rather than a more effective blood thinner.
The Importance of Anticoagulants
Of course, those most vulnerable to experiencing a stroke are people over the age of 65. This is partly due to the likelihood that another condition such as heart failure or hypertension exists in addition to Afib, increasing the importance of anticoagulants. According to Dr. Hsu, who surveyed 123 cardiology practices, 40% of patients in these high-risk groups were prescribed aspirin. Of the 60% of high-risk patients in Dr. Hsu’s study who were prescribed blood thinners, most were male, overweight, and had a history of previous strokes or heart disease.
Whether you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Afib, it is important to research the risks and treatments carefully. Doctors often care for several patients each day and may overlook the proper prescription that could improve and perhaps even extend your life.
Dr. Hsu and other researchers infer that many doctors are not up to date on the most current guidelines for treating patients with Afib. If you have Afib, it is vital to understand this condition causes the upper region of the heart to beat rapidly and inconsistently. This can cause blood clots which can migrate to the brain and lead to severe damage or even death. Cardiology researchers have recommended blood thinners as the best possible agent to prevent the development of blood clots. Life is too short to dismiss proper treatment of Afib. Are you currently using aspirin to treat your heart condition? You may want to consider switching to an anticoagulant blood thinner.