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Brussels Sprouts and Booze: Finding My Balance

Mar 30

Posted by: ACHA
3/30/2012 11:34 AM  RssIcon

By Clare Almand

Moving to New York has opened my eyes to many things, including a secret that society and even my own mother tried to keep from me.

Brussels sprouts are delicious. Like, for real.

I was fortunate enough to live with a health-conscious friend who cooked dinner every night. She regularly made dishes with a heaping side of brussels sprouts, kale, or spinach. I’d always had a variety of vegetables at dinner growing up (except for sprouts), but I had become accustomed to my mother serving me fewer of them, because I’m Clare—I spread my food around my plate and eat my vegetables last. However, a combination of being a guest, having the desire to eat more healthfully and my roommate making really delicious meals caused me to clean my plate and even ask for seconds.

I felt really good about ingesting these leafy greens full of antioxidants, iron, and vitamin K, which help blood coagulation. Then I remembered that I take Coumadin. Crap.

The general INR range for those of us on Coumadin is 2.5-3.5. With my history of bleeding problems, my personal range is 2.0-3.0. If it’s too low, I’m at risk for blood clots. If it’s too high, I risk bleeding too much. When I first tested my blood after moving to New York, my INR was 1.8. Close to my range, but a little on the thick side, so my Coumadin nurse upped my dosage after I informed her of my change in diet and I agreed to check my blood again in two weeks.

My main problem is that I, like Stephie, am pretty inconsistent when it comes to keeping up with my heart-related tasks, specifically checking my INR. In fact, I almost never test my blood when I’m supposed to. My Coumadin nurse or some lucky employee at the home monitoring company will have to call me to remind me to check my INR. And it’s not always because I forgot. I often find myself wondering, “Watch TV or check my INR?” Guess which wins?

Not to mention the fact that I’m in New York! I’m in the city that never sleeps with all my friends and I’ve been going out…and having fun. Cut to six weeks later when I tested my INR for a second time. It was 3.4. In the words of Jamie Foxx, I blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-alcohol.

So I find myself struggling with the balancing act: brussels sprouts and booze. Four servings of leafy greens and four servings of alcohol a week—will those cancel each other out? I don’t know, because I don’t keep track of these things or test my blood when I’m supposed to. (My cardiologist is going to love this blog post).

After a week where I had only one alcoholic beverage without changing the rest of my diet, my INR was 2.5—a happy medium. What I’ve learned from this experience (besides having more than two drinks in one night is always a bad idea) is that I don’t want to get a blood clot or get an injury that results in heavy bleeding. I can eat healthfully and go out and have a good time and still have my INR in a safe range. This is one of the few aspects of having CHD that I can control and I don’t have to be a victim if I just turn off the TV and test my blood.

Clare Almand was born with Shone’s syndrome and has undergone a repair for coarctation of the aorta, multiple atrial septal defect and ventricular septal defect repairs, aortic valve replacement and an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator implantation. She has a B.A. in Media Arts and Design with a minor in Creative Writing from James Madison University. Clare pushes paper during the day and writes screenplays in her spare time. 

Tags: Clare Almand
Location: Blogs Parent Separator ACHA Blog

5 comment(s) so far...


Re: Brussels Sprouts and Booze: Finding My Balance

I can completely relate to this! I have been on Coumadin since I was 10 years old, that is 29 years! It is such a pain to have to always think about what I am eating or drinking, and how it's going to affect my INR. I am constantly reading labels. Surprise, even my eye cream had vitamin K in it! If I have a spinach salad, can I balance it out with a glass of red wine? Just one of the many aspects of living with CHD repair. Better than the altrernative, right?

I was just in NY for the very first time two weeks ago with a friend. We had a ball, and you aren't kidding, that city NEVER stops! My INR was a litle high when I got back! ;) Good luck to you!

By Jen Fisher on   3/30/2012 1:53 PM

Re: Brussels Sprouts and Booze: Finding My Balance

;) I'm glad you're getting adjusted to New York City and Brussels Sprouts, and learning the fine balance of the INR/PT. I am supposed to go back on Coumadin, and I know it is very important to monitor. Thanks for your reminders here that we don't have to give up a healthy diet of leafy greens and yeah we can enjoy a drink once in a while, just be sure to have our INR/PT checked often.

By Stephie on   3/30/2012 7:26 PM

Re: Brussels Sprouts and Booze: Finding My Balance

I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one that doesn't check my INR as often as I should. Thanks for the reminder. I got complacent because my INR had been stable for over a year. Now it's being a little funky so I need to make sure I check it more often.

By Suzy on   4/5/2012 11:53 AM

Re: Brussels Sprouts and Booze: Finding My Balance

I am a 40 year old women who has already had 2 open heart surgeries and have my third scheduled in the fall. My dr just told me that I need 2 valves and there is a good chance I will be on Coumadin. I am very nervous that I am going to struggle with the everyday maintenance of being on Coumadin. Any thoughts or suggestions are welcomed.

By Jeanne Ciaverelli on   8/5/2013 8:35 AM

Re: Brussels Sprouts and Booze: Finding My Balance

Hi Jeanne You might find ACHA's Ambassador program helpful in discussing your concerns about Coumadin. It is a chance to connect one-on-one with someone similar to yourself who can relate to what you're feeling. Email me at and I can tell you more about the program or just fill out the Support Request form on the ACHA website at

You might also find the ACHA Discussion Forum helpful. It is a safe and secure place to chat with others who may be on Coumadin and can also answer your questions. You are more likely to hear from others by posting there than on this blog.

By Paula on   8/13/2013 2:16 PM

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