10 Things That Can Increase The Risk For Blood Clots: Weight And More
February 16, 2018 15:04 By Fabiosa
A blood clot is the result of coagulation or blood thickening that forms a plug created out of red blood cells and a type of fibrin protein. Formation of blood clots is not just normal but also helpful for the body. Through a blood clot or thrombus, our bodies create hemostasis, or to put it simply, the bodies stop bleeding from wounds.
However, blood clots can also form in uninjured vessels obstructing blood flow which is known as thrombosis. Thrombus then blocks blood from flowing or forces it through a very narrow passage impeding normal bodily functions.
For example, a blood clot in an artery can cause ischemia and even necrosis. If a blood clot dislodges from its place of origin and starts moving around the body, it is called an embolus. You can imagine what damage it can do if it clogs up veins or arteries in the heart or lungs.
Blood clots do not necessarily produce symptoms. However, if a blood clot forms inside your legs, it can develop into a deep vein thrombosis. The legs are the most likely place of origin since gravity plays a significant role in forcing the blood to accumulate in the lower extremities naturally. In case of a thrombus in the legs, you will most likely experience the following symptoms:
- red or discolored skin;
- the feeling of warmth.
Although blood clots can dissolve and disappear on their own, sometimes they can start moving and end up in the lungs causing a pulmonary embolism. The blockage of blood flow in the lungs can lead to organ failures and even death. The symptoms of a pulmonary embolism are tough to miss as they mostly consist of breathing difficulties. The other signs may include the following:
- shortness of breath;
- chest pain;
- rapid pulse;
- coughing up blood.
If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms, immediately dial 9-1-1 and ask for medical assistance.
The causes of a blood clot have been divided into three groups and named the Virchow's triad after a German physician Rudolf Virchow: hypercoagulability, hemodynamic changes, and endothelial injury. It all comes down to three main reasons:
- genetic predisposition for blood coagulation;
- slowed blood flow;
- injury (to the blood vessel).
These three leading causes imply the majority of risk factors as they are linked by almost direct causality.
Because of the increased levels of estrogen during pregnancy, women have a much higher chance of developing a blood clot. The risk seldom diminished even post-partum as the estrogen levels are high even six weeks after childbirth.
2. Birth control pills
Similar to pregnancy, it is the hormones that are the main culprits. Estrogen and progestin used in the prevention of pregnancy increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis. Women in menopause who are receiving hormonal treatment are also in the risk group due to an unclear link between female hormones and blood clotting.
3. Sitting for too long
Sitting in planes, cars, or some other form of transport raises the risk as well. People with jobs that require extended amounts of time in a sitting position are also in danger because of the blood accumulating in the legs due to the gravitational pull. Standing up and doing stretching exercises once in a while is highly recommended to prevent the formation of blood clots.
4. Height and weight
Tall people have longer bodies and extremities which means the circulatory system has to fight even harder against gravity. The risk becomes higher if a person is taller than 6 feet. Being overweight is an issue on its own, but in the case of blood clots, it means that the weight is putting pressure in the veins in the lower part of your body.
Smoking has been directly linked as a cause to many serious illnesses including lung cancer. By damaging the lining of blood vessels, smoking can contribute to the formation of blood clots because the platelets in the blood are more likely to stick together.
Blood clots are non-discriminatory when it comes to age, but statistics show that old people are much more likely to experience thrombosis. The reasons behind the age factor are not entirely clear, but scientists suggest that blood clots in seniors are a culmination of a plethora of health issues which come with age.
7. Surgeries and injuries
As we explained earlier, blood clotting is a normal process that happens when a blood vessel is perforated. However, sometimes a blood clot formed to protect the body detaches and can cause havoc somewhere else. This is especially true with patients after surgery since they are more likely to remain in a lying position for days. Of course, injuries and surgeries on legs and hips are far more dangerous and this the reason why getting back on your feet as soon as possible is extremely important.
8. Genetic clotting disorder
You are probably aware of hemophilia, a condition in which the body cannot form a blood clot, but there are also illnesses that cause the body to make blood hypercoagulable such as Factor V Leiden. Such genetic disorders do not necessarily lead to blood clots although they increase the risk factor exponentially.
9. Previous blood clot-related problems
If you've had DVT or the pulmonary embolism in the past, the chances are that you will develop similar problems again. Consult with your physician about ways to prevent blood clots. Also, having a family history of blood clots can be an alarming sign and you should mention that to the doctor in case of any procedures.
Cancer, unfortunately, stimulates the body to form blood clots. People that have cancer or are receiving cancer treatments should watch out for symptoms and regularly check blood circulation with their oncologist.
This article is purely for informational purposes. Do not self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for harm that may result from using the information stated in the article.