Age Doesn't Matter Where Blood Thinners Are Concerned
"Ours is the first study to find a significant benefit for [Coumadin] in a population with an average age of 80," Gage says.
"[The] study demonstrates that blood thinners have been underused in elderly people over 65 with atrial fibrillation and that this underuse has led to an increase in hospitalizations and deaths," the authors write.
"If I had atrial fibrillation, I would certainly want to discuss the reasons for and against taking [Coumadin] or aspirin with my doctor," says Richard Thomson, MD, who was not involved in the study. "Patient preferences are an important part of the shared decision-making process. This is particularly important for a medication like [Coumadin], where some patients may have strong feelings about the required monitoring process." Thomson is professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Newcastle School of Medicine in England.
Thomson points out that "as patients get older, their risk of stroke increases." Although the problems associated with Coumadin may also increase with age, the benefits of use may be even greater in those who are older, he says. "In the absence of contraindications [such as easy tendency to bleed], we should be using warfarin in the elderly in the same way as in younger patients," he says.
About 2 million Americans have atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat that can cause blood clots. If a blood clot travels from the heart to the brain, it can cause a stroke.
Previous studies have shown that blood thinners like Coumadin are safe to use in patients aged 65 to 75. A new study shows the drug is safe to use in patients over 80, but overall, the therapy is underused.
Observers note it's important to discuss the use of blood thinners with your doctor. Some patients can't take potent blood thinners because they have other health conditions that would make the therapy unsafe, but they still may be able to use milder thinners like aspirin.