Blood has a key purpose.
It must be flowing constantly and with ease so that it can reach every section of the body.
But, whenever there is a cut or an open wound, the blood should shut it off and allow the body to heal itself.
So, is blood clotting good?
Blood clots are a normal part of the rejuvenation process when they stop bleeding.
However, blood clots can also emerge when the body doesn’t need them, like from a serious health problem, such as stroke or heart attack.
Luckily there is a way that prevents the clotting of blood to a certain extent.
In this blood clotting prevention guideline, you can learn the ins and outs of keeping your blood flow working properly.
You can learn how clots form and some viable ways to prevent blood clots.
What are blood clots?
A blood clot is a clump of blood. Rather than having its normal gel-like consistency (not too thick or too thin), the blood turns into a semi-solid state because of clotting. Clotting in the blood is normal after injuring or cutting the skin.
But, if a blood clot forms without an actual injury and appears in the veins, then it can be a problem. Sometimes, the clots dissolve naturally. At other times, they could become a potentially life-threatening complication. This is an abnormal blood clot.
Different types of clotting issues exist.
- Thrombus is stationary (not moving) blood clots. Experts call it a thrombosis. This involves conditions like DVT (deep vein thrombosis). The thrombus forms in one or more of the deep veins, typically in the legs. It is a prevalent and potentially dangerous health issue that does require treatment. (1)
- Another blood clot type is embolus. They can break loose and reach other areas of the body. Experts call them embolisms.
Blood clot awareness month in March offers people a great opportunity to connect with the clotting disorders community. They can also find like-minded individuals who are happy to share their experiences with this type of health issue.
Are blood clots common?
Blood clotting affects roughly 900,000 Americans annually. Clotting, however, is very rare in healthy young people.
Those who are prone to them are patients who recently left the hospital. Other lifestyle risk factors that increase the odds of clotting are obesity, smoking, birth control pills, etc.
What causes blood clots?
Before you can prevent blood clots, you need to know what causes it. The blood lets clotting form when specific areas of the blood become thicker, creating a semi-solid state. Those who had veins block before can be at risk of clotting.
Other clotting factors for the formation of a blood clot include:
- Sitting for too long
- Varicose veins
- Prolonged bed rest (especially after illness or surgery)
- Blood-related cancers, lung, multiple myeloma, or pancreatic cancer
- Serious injury (trauma)
- Old age
- Autoimmune ailments
- Diseases linked to chronic inflammation
- Some infections (Lyme disease, hepatitis C, AIDS, or HIV)
- Family history of age strokes
- Hormone replacement therapies
What are the signs of a blood clot?
The warning signs and symptoms of clotting will vary based on where the problem is. The severity of the symptoms will also depend on how big the clot is and how fast it formed.
Symptoms of clotting in arms or legs: (2)
- The affected area is warm to touch
Symptoms of clotting in the stomach:
- Abdominal swelling
- On/off abdominal pain
- Fluid accumulation
The symptoms of clotting in the heart:
- Shortness of breath
- Discomfort or aches in the back, neck, jaw, or arms
- Pain in the chest
Symptoms of clotting in the lung (pulmonary embolism):
- Pain in the chest
- Quickened heart rate
- Coughing up blood
- Difficulty breathing
- Sudden shortness of breath.
Symptoms of clotting in the brain:
- Trouble speaking or seeing
- Slurred speech
- Losing balance
- Severe headache
- Lack of coordination
- Numbness in the leg, arm, or face.
How to prevent blood clots: 6 tips
Blood clot prevention starts by incorporating some practical lifestyle changes and taking any necessary prescription medicine. Here, we listed some noteworthy strategies that can help.
1) Medication treatment
Blood clot prevention medication relies on the use of blood thinners. They don’t break up the clot that is already present in the system. But they are capable of stopping it from getting larger.
The different types of such medication include:
- Anticoagulants – Medicine like Warfarin or Heparin slow down the process of creating clots.
- Antiplatelets – Medication such as clopidogrel and aspirin prevent platelets from forming clumps and creating a clot. Doctors recommend this type of medication for patients who had a stroke or heart attack.
Other options, like thrombolytics, can break down the already formed clots present in the blood vessels. These are “clot busters.” Thrombolytic therapy is an emergency treatment for dissolving blood clots in the arteries feeding the brain and heart. A healthcare expert can suggest the best form of treatment.
2) Try special stockings
Many people want to know how to prevent DVT. According to research, compression stockings alone are adequate for moderate-risk DVT patients. They are effective clothing in preventing DVT in hospitalized individuals. (3)
Compression garments are a specific type of hosiery that boost leg circulation. By adding pressure on the legs, compression stockings prevent the blood from accumulating in the leg and stimulate free circulation to the heart.
With compression socks, people can:
- Ease leg pain from circulatory issues
- Relieve leg swelling
- Manage post-thrombotic syndrome (PTS) symptoms (4)
However, this type of clothing comes in different tightness and lengths. You can use full-length, high-high, or knee-high compression options.
If you have swelling just under the knee, then your doctor might suggest knee-high stockings. When dealing with swelling above the knee, then the full-length or thigh-high varieties can work better for thrombosis prevention.
When it comes to tightness levels, compression options include 30 – 40 mmHg (extra firm), 20 – 30 mmHg (firm), 15 – 20 mmHg (moderate), and 8 – 15 mmHg (mild). The suggested tightness for DVT is usually around 30 – 40 mmHg.
3) Keep a Healthy Weight
Those who want to know how to prevent thrombosis should focus on what’s causing the problem. Obesity is a classic risk factor for clotting in deep veins, lungs, and pulmonary embolism.
This is because being obese promotes persistent inflammation and decreases fibrinolysis (the ability of the body to break down blood clots). Being overweight also adds vein pressure and hinders blood supply. The extra body fat can squeeze the walls of the veins, causing damage to the valves and hindering circulation to the heart, legs, and arms.
Being tall and obese can significantly increase the risk of having dangerous blood clots. This is where healthy weight management comes into play. Reducing the excess weight helps control the blood pressure and inflammation – these two factors can impact your odds of developing a blood clot. (5)
4) Avoid Smoking
According to research on smoking and blood clots, tobacco amplifies the risk of blood clots. With every 10 cigarettes you smoke a day, you increase the risk for a deep vein blood clot. This unhealthy habit damages the blood vessel lining and increases the odds of platelets clumping together. (6)
5) Remain Hydrated
Dehydration and blood clots go hand in hand. When the body lacks enough fluids, the blood vessels become narrower and the blood thicker. This can make clotting more likely to happen.
Drinking water helps blood clotting not just in dehydrated individuals but also in healthy patients.
You can slightly prevent blood clots by keeping the body fully hydrated. Adequate hydration aids the heart in pumping more blood and allowing oxygen to reach the muscles. Thanks to the improved circulation, the muscles start to work correctly.
6) Don’t Sit for Too Long
Many people want to know what prevents blood clots. But, they are unaware of what prolonged sitting can do to the circulatory system.
Circulation slows when you sit or lay down for a very long time. To learn how to avoid DVT, it’s important to start moving around from time to time to get the blood flowing.
Exercising with DVT is safe for patients who need to curb the acute symptoms. Early walking can be a solid exercise and blood clots management strategy. If you have to sit for an extended period, there are a couple of exercises to prevent DVT. (7)
You can do them while sitting. Such as:
- Leg raises – Give your legs a good stretch by extending them. Lean back on a chair, raise your legs, hold for a few seconds, lower, and repeat.
- Ankle circles – Turn your ankle slowly in a circle-like motion a few times. Try doing 10 circles on each foot.
- Foot pumps – Position your feet flat on the ground and raise your toes toward you. Hold for a couple of seconds and lower your toes and balls of your feet to the floor. Raise your heels and hold again.
Does DVT massage help?
If you are currently receiving treatment for DVT, avoid massaging the legs. Massaging could make the clot break loose. Talk to your doctor about when to start massaging your legs.
Do any foods prevent blood clots?
You can’t control your genetics or age, but you can control the foods you eat. A blood clot prevention diet is involved in modifying the risk for developing some blood clotting conditions, like thrombotic diseases.
Foods for blood clot prevention can decrease platelet activation and manage obesity or overweight. The foods you can eat are suggested for any healthy lifestyle.
- Healthy fats (i.e., canola or olive oil)
- Whole grains
To know how to prevent blood clots, it’s important to look at the overall body weight. Eating healthy can help you shed the extra pounds, thus easing the pressure on the blood vessels and curbing the inflammation.
But, remember that some of the foods you eat for pulmonary embolism prevention can interact with certain medications. Foods packed with vitamin K could hinder the effectiveness of blood thinners.
So, if you are using blood thinners, talk to a specialist about eating:
- Brussels sprouts
- Cranberry juice
- Fish oil
- Green cabbage
- Green tea
You don’t have to completely eliminate them from your diet. Just consume them in moderate or small amounts.
Can blood clots go away?
Most of the time, the body naturally dissolves the clotting after healing an injury. But, at times, the clots appear inside the vessels without an injury and won’t dissolve naturally.
So, what stops blood clots? Thrombolytics are a practical medical therapy for dissolving blood clots.
How can I thin my blood naturally?
Living with blood clots can be stressful, especially after having a pulmonary embolism (PE) or deep vein thrombosis (DVT). It can take several months for the body to heal, and you have to stay on top of your treatment and medication schedule.
Many looking to reduce the blood clot risk are opting for natural alternatives. Some spices and herbs that contain salicylates (a natural blood thinner) are:
- Curry powder
But, it is unlikely that these natural blood thinners can work just as well as classic blood-thinning meds. So, if you are dealing with blood clot ankle swelling or any type of blood clot infection, it’s best to consult a specialist.
DVT education for patients is a key factor in learning how to take the necessary precautions that aid in reducing the risk of blood clotting. Every health condition can have its own impact on blood flow.
By using medication, compression stockings, maintaining a healthy weight, and more, people can reduce the chances of clotting. If you’ve been diagnosed with DVT or other health complications, do regular check-ups to know if the body is on the right track with the healing process.