Antiplatelet Medicines

Platelets are cells in the blood that help us make blood clots. This is a normal body function. If you have heart disease risk factors (such as smoking, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes) your platelets can clump together more easily and can form a more serious blood clot. Blood clots can be a problem especially if they are in your heart, brain, or other arteries in your body. Antiplatelet medicines help to prevent these blood clots.

Why are you taking antiplatelet medicines?

Antiplatelet medicines stop blood clots from forming. This helps to prevent a heart attack or stroke. If you have had a heart attack, stroke, or stents placed in your heart arteries, you probably have been asked to take antiplatelet medicines. These medicines will lower your chance of having a heart attack or stroke.

Often used antiplatelet medicines:

Aspirin and Plavix® (clopidogrel) or Effient® (prasugrel)

If you are prescribed more than one medicine, it is important to take them both because they work in different ways to stop blood clots from forming. These medicines are often used by people who have had a heart attack, stroke, or stents placed in the heart.

Other oral antiplatelet medicines:

  • Pletal® (cilostazol) - Generally used by people with blocked arteries in their legs.
  • Persantine® (dipyridamole) and aspirin are often taken together to prevent a stroke.
  • Other antiplatelet medicines such as Ticlid® (ticlopidine) are also available.

How to Take Your Antiplatelet Medicines

  1. Always talk to your heart doctor or nurse before stopping or changing the way you take your antiplatelet medicines.
  2. If you forget a dose you can take it later that day. If you missed taking it entirely, do not catch up by taking two doses the next day.
  3. Ask your doctor or nurse how long you will be taking these medicines. You may be on two antiplatelet medicines for a year or more and may stay on aspirin for a long time.
  4. Tell ALL of your doctors and nurses that you are on antiplatelet medicines especially if they ask you to take new medicines.
  5. Before you have dental work or surgery, ask your dentist or surgeon to speak with your heart doctor about whether or not you should stop taking your antiplatelet medicines. You may be able to stay on aspirin, even if you need to stop Plavix® or Effi ent®.

What can I expect?

You will bleed and bruise more easily (the good news is that this means the medicine is working).

When should I call my doctor?

  • If you have headaches, dizziness, chest pain, stomach upset or pain, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, muscle pain, or severe back pain.
  • If you have bleeding in your stool (dark or black colored stool), blood in your urine, or you get nosebleeds that are hard to stop.
  • If you throw up and it is brown or coffee colored.
  • If you feel very tired, weak, short of breath, or look pale.
  • If you have a sudden severe headache, confusion, fever or chills, yellow colored skin or eyes.

Helpful Hints

  • Accidents do happen. Put pressure on the bleeding area for 5 minutes or until the bleeding stops.
  • Have band aids close by to stop the bleeding.
  • When traveling:
    • Always have extra doses of your medicine.
    • When fl ying, never pack your medicines in your checked baggage.
    • Take your blood pressure at home on a regular basis and let your doctor or nurse know if it is above 135/85 mm Hg.

Download & print information about Antiplatelet Medicines

This education sheet provides an overview of the important role of platelets in the development of acute coronary syndrome, heart attack, and stroke.

It reviews information on:

  • Antiplatelet medicines
  • Important instructions for taking antiplatelet medicines
  • What to expect when taking medicines
  • Tips on how to incorporate a heart healthy diet and exercise into your daily routine

Disclaimer: This and other PCNA educational materials are for information purposes only and are not intended to replace medical advice or diagnose or treat health problems. Health-related decisions should be made in partnership with a healthcare provider. It is the reader's responsibility to seek out the most current, accurate information.