Warfarin was introduced in 1948 as a pesticide against rats and mice, and is still popular for this purpose. It’s a synthetic derivative of dicumarol, which was originally found in spoiled sweet clover-based animal feeds. The large doses used in rodent bait cause hemorrhage followed by death.

Warfarin is commonly called a blood thinner, but it really doesn’t affect the thickness or viscosity of the blood. It actually acts in the liver to decrease a few key proteins in blood that normally allow the blood to clot.

In humans, the medication is used for those having a DVT (a blood clot in the leg) and for those folks diagnosed with atrial fibrillation ( an irregular heartbeat.) Its purpose is to prevent formation of future clots.

Warfarin interacts with several things, the most important of which are some of the antibiotics. If a person takes warfarin and some antibiotics, the end result may be an elevated INR test. Excessive alcohol can cause the same thing. Commonly used herbs can also interact with warfarin to raise blood levels of the drug. Among them are ginger, garlic, ginseng, ginko and St. John’s Wort.

Vitamin k injections are the antidote for high blood levels. Since leafy greens contain high levels of vitamin k, people using warfarin are advised to keep their intake fairly constant from week to week. Kale, collards, spinach and turnip greens contain the highest levels of vitamin k. Beet greens, mustard greens and broccoli contain less.

– Gail Stinson, RN is the Director of Health and Wellness for Harbor’s Edge. She will be contributing monthly with information about commonly used medications, and other helpful tips for living a healthy senior lifestyle.

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