Lifestyle and warfarin

While the thought of living with warfarin seems daunting at first, many people are able to take warfarin without experiencing problems. Understanding what can affect warfarin and blood clotting, and keeping these in mind in your day to day life, or when planning activities such as travel, will help you to live safely with warfarin.

Watch our video, in which Dr John Worthington gives practical tips on starting warfarin, INR testing, diet and vitamin K rich foods, and what to do if you are starting other medicines or get sick.

Know what can affect your INR

If you are taking warfarin, changes to your diet, alcohol intake, illness, other medicines and travel can all affect your INR, and may result in a change to your dose of warfarin.

Watch specialist Dr John Worthington's tips for travelling, what to do if you are sick (e.g. infection, diarrhoea, vomiting), or starting new medicines.

Limit your alcohol intake

Don’t make major changes to your diet or alcohol intake — consistency is the key. Limit your alcohol intake to no more than two standard drinks per day.

Find out more about alcohol and warfarin.

Eat consistent amounts of green leafy vegetables

You can eat green leafy vegetables if you are taking warfarin. But it’s important to eat the same amount of these foods each week to help keep your INR stable. This is because green leafy vegetables (e.g. spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts) are rich in vitamin K, which can affect your INR.

Don’t avoid vitamin K-rich foods completely. Studies show that eating regular, consistent amounts of vitamin K-rich foods is better for maintaining a stable INR, than not eating them at all, or eating varying amounts.

Find out more about diet and warfarin.

See a doctor if you are ill

See your doctor if you experience any unusual symptoms or if you feel unwell while taking warfarin, even if you don’t think it’s caused by your medicine.

Seek urgent medical advice if you notice:

  • unusual bruising or bleeding
  • any unusual symptoms
  • vomiting or diarrhoea
  • fever or infection
  • loss of appetite
  • yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes (jaundice).

Check before you start or stop a new medicine

Always check with a health professional before you start or stop taking a new medicine. This is because warfarin interacts with many common medicines including vitamins, prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines. This means that taking one of these medicines could affect the way warfarin works.

Find out more about the medicines that can interact with warfarin.

Visit your doctor before travelling

Visit your doctor well before you leave for your holiday as you may need an INR test before you go. You may also need to have your INR checked while travelling, especially if:

  • your INR is not in your target range before you leave
  • you have just started taking warfarin
  • you start or are already taking another medicine known to affect your INR or warfarin.

Ask your doctor if you will need to test your INR while away, and if so how to go about it.

Also ask for advice about when to take your dose of warfarin if you are travelling in different time zones.

Find our more about INR tests and travelling with warfarin.

Take precautions to prevent injuries

Whether you are at home or away on holidays, avoid any activities or sports that put you at risk of injuries or falls that might cause bleeding — or take precautions to limit your risk. For example, if you’re cycling, wear protective clothing such as gloves, cycle helmets, knee padding and non-slip supportive shoes.

Make adjustments around your home to reduce your risk of cuts or injury. For example:

  • take care with sharp objects like knives
  • wear gloves when gardening
  • use a non-slip bathmat for the bath or shower
  • use an electric shaver
  • use a soft bristled or electric tooth brush.

Find out more about warfarin, who can take warfarin, and the side effects and interactions of warfarin.

Download our Living well with warfarin fact sheet — for people who’ve been prescribed warfarin, or their carers, to help you live safely with warfarin.