Tips for Blood Clot Prevention
Reduce Your Risk Of Blood Clots Without A Prescription
Lacey loved to travel. Now in their retirement, she and her husband decided to take some trips. Their first trip was to Italy, but when she got there she was having trouble. One leg was swelling up, and cramping, it turned red, and hurt when she walked. She went to a doctor and found out that she had a blood clot in her leg, also known as DVT. She had to cut her trip short, start on blood thinners, and come home for treatment to prevent clots from getting into her lungs – which is potentially deadly.
Isn’t the body filled with blood?
We often think of the body as filled with blood, but all the blood must stay in the blood vessels. Outside of the blood vessels, blood does damage – like bruising. So, if your blood doesn’t clot, it will leak out every time there is a broken blood vessel. This happens a lot, even if it not visible to the naked eye!
For example, most rat poisons are just blood thinners. When the rat breaks a blood vessel it doesn’t clot and the rat dies of internal bleeding. People can develop the same problem, such as in hemophilia, if their blood doesn’t clot. The blood must clot – but not too much.
What happens if the blood clots easily?
There is a delicate balance between clotting off every broken blood vessel and shutting down blood vessels by over-clotting. If blood clots start forming in the veins where slow moving blood pools together, then impaired circulation can lead to swelling, pain, cramps, and other problems.
An analogy to this process is a slow moving river. Over time, weeds and algae start to accumulate along the banks of the river where slow water flows. Gradually, as the weeds multiply, they begin to invade the center of the river because they can withstand the pressure of the oncoming water flow. Likewise, a blood clot can form at the site of that rupture and can completely or partially obstruct the blood flow at that point.
The greatest risk of blood clots is DVT, or Deep Vein Thrombosis. Clots in the small veins under the skin can cause pain and swelling. But deep veins, the ones that run between the muscles deep in the thigh, can get clots that are deadly. If these blood clots in the deep veins of your muscles break off and travel up to the lungs, they can plug up a large portion of the circulation and cause death. This is known as a pulmonary embolism, or PE.
Why do blood clots form in the veins?
When we get cut, the body creates an inflammatory response:
- Immune cells arrive to protect against infection
- Repair cells arrive to initiate repair
- Blood plasma brings protein “clotting factors“
- Platelets initiate a cascade of reactions to form blood clots and stop the bleeding
But there are several reasons why blood clots might happen when there isn’t any bleeding:
- Genetic factors
- Inflammatory conditions
- Infectious diseases
- Damaged blood vessels
- Pooling of blood, or poor circulation
What are the genetic reasons for clotting?
Some people have a genetic disposition to blood clots because their body doesn’t make the proper proteins that form or create clots. Inherited (genetic) disposition to form clots in the veins is common. Genetic disposition to clotting is mostly found in Caucasian people, and this condition is dominant. This means if one of your parents has it, you have a 50% chance of getting it. The significant types include:
- Factor V Leiden – affects 7% of Caucasian people
- Factor II Prothrombin – affects 3%
- Protein C deficiency – Less than 1%
- Protein S deficiency – Less than 1%
- Antithrombin III deficiency – Less than 1%
However, even if you have the gene, it doesn’t mean that you will get clots. More than 90% of people with Factor V Leiden, for example, never get blood clots or have clotting problems.
7 Factors that Promote Unwanted Blood Clots
If the genes aren’t the cause, what is? Our story of Lacey, above, illustrates several issues that cause most blood clots. All the real risk factors for blood clots are controllable, being lifestyle issues.