Age Doesn't Matter Where Blood Thinners Are Concerned
"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
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.