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Heart Patients Using Vitamins May Take Meds Improperly
Date:11/15/2011

TUESDAY, Nov. 15 (HealthDay News) -- People with heart conditions who take vitamins may be less likely to take some of their other medications properly, according to a new study.

Researchers from the Intermountain Medical Center in Utah asked 100 people with an irregular heartbeat -- known as atrial fibrillation -- what they knew about warfarin (Coumadin), a commonly prescribed blood thinner. The patients were also asked how well they followed their prescription for the drug, and whether or not they also took vitamins or other supplements.

People taking warfarin need regular monitoring because too much of the drug can cause bleeding, and too little can allow blood clots to form, increasing the risk for stroke. In addition, diet also plays a role in warfarin's effectiveness.

The study, presented Monday at the American Heart Association's annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., found that 62 percent of patients who were prescribed warfarin took the drug with dietary supplements, potentially reducing its effectiveness. Of this group, 24 percent admitted that they even skipped doses of the anticoagulant drug, putting them at greater risk for stroke. Moreover, heart patients who took vitamins were 2 percent more likely to double their dose of warfarin, compared to those not taking supplements, which can increase their risk of bleeding.

The study also found that patients taking vitamins were less informed about potentially dangerous interactions between the supplements they were taking and warfarin. The researchers pointed out these patients had more episodes of unexplained bleeding, and needed more non-surgical transfusions.

The study's authors concluded that patients on prescription drugs should be more aware of the potentially negative side effects associated with taking dietary supplements.

"When you take a vitamin pill, you often are getting a much higher dose than you would by just eating a balanced diet.
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