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Most of the time, the blood in your body is a liquid. However, sometimes blood can thicken and clump — as it does during the natural healing process for a wound.

When blood forms clumps or clots inside your arteries or veins, it can cause serious a health problem. These types of blood clots can break loose, travel through your body, and block the flow of blood to your organs. If a blood clot blocks blood flow to a major organ, it can even cause death.

The good news is there are steps you can take to prevent dangerous blood clots from forming. This is especially important if you have a higher chance of developing them. Here’s a concise guide and practical tips to prevent blood clots.

Many times, people with blood clots don’t have any symptoms until a complication occurs. For that reason, it’s important to do what you can to lower your risk of developing a blood clot. Here’s some expert advice on what to do and what to avoid.

Maintain a healthy weight

Having obesity is associated with increased pressure inside your abdomen, being less active, and having long-term inflammation in your body. All of these factors can raise your risk of blood clots. Talk with a healthcare professional about healthy ways to reduce your weight, if needed.

Stay active

Regular exercise appears to lower your chances of developing a blood clot. It is important to note that if you have been inactive or immobile for a long period, light to moderate physical activity is probably a better idea than intense exercise. This is because there is a very small risk of loosening a blood clot if you overdo it.

If you’re not sure what level of activity level is healthiest for you, you can discuss different kinds of exercise with a healthcare professional first.

Hydrate

Dehydration is thought to increase the odds of developing a blood clot. Therefore, it’s important to drink plenty of water each day, especially if you have other risk factors for blood clots.

Stop smoking

If you smoke, now is the time to stop. Research shows that smoking — even if you use an e-cigarette — raises your risk of developing a dangerous blood clot. There are many tools to help you quit. If you’re not sure which method is right for you, talk through your options with a healthcare professional.

Break up long periods of sitting

If travel, a health condition, or the nature of your job require you to sit for long periods of time, it’s important to get up and move as often as you are able. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that you stand, stretch (feet, ankles, and legs), and move around every 2 to 3 hours if possible to prevent a clot from forming.

Watch your sodium level

Paying attention to your sodium level can be key in lowering your odds of a blood clot. Sodium levels that are too high or too low can lead to problems with blood clots, a 2018 cohort study showed.

Consider compression

In some cases, compression socks and stockings or special sleeves can be used to keep a blood clot from forming or moving. You can discuss compression options with a healthcare professional, and you can check out our tips for choosing compression garments here.

Take prescribed medications

Certain medications can be used to prevent blood clots from forming, dissolve existing blood clots, or keep them from growing any more. These include blood thinners, thrombin inhibitors, and thrombolytics.

You may want to discuss these medications with a healthcare professional if you have certain risk factors for developing a blood clot. We’ll talk about these in the next section.

Anyone can develop a blood clot. Up to 80 percent of people who develop a blood clot that forms in the leg (deep vein thrombosis, or DVT) have at least one or more risk factors.

Risk factors can be inherited and are present at birth or acquired, meaning they develop during your lifetime. Therefore, it’s important to be aware of situations and conditions that can raise your risk. Some of these factors include:

  • Genetics and age. People of any gender can develop a blood clot. Black people, older adults, people with blood types other than O, and people with certain genetic mutations and inherited protein deficiencies are more likely to experience blood clots.
  • Pregnancy or childbirth. People who are pregnant or have recently had a baby are at a higher risk for blood clots. Researchers think the body increases its ability to coagulate blood as a means of protection from too much blood loss during delivery.
  • Hormonal contraceptives and hormone replacement therapies. Birth control pills that contain hormones can raise your risk of blood clots in your legs or lungs by 3- to 9-fold. Some estrogen and progestin therapies used by transgender people and people in menopause can also cause blood clots. The risk may increase the longer you take the medications.
  • Surgery. Any surgery can increase your risk of developing a blood clot. If your surgery took a long time or you were immobile for a long time afterward, you risk is higher. This is especially true if you are older or you’ve had a blood clot in the past.
  • Trauma. Any trauma to your body elevates your blood clot risk. One 2020 study that screened trauma patients for blood clots found that people with low blood pressure, congestive heart failure, or a pelvic fracture were more likely to form a blood clot in the first 48 hours after the traumatic injury. People who experienced head injuries, were placed on ventilators, or received blood transfusions also had higher odds of blood clots in the study.
  • Previous blood clots. If you have had a blood clot before, you may be more likely to have another. It’s important to let a healthcare professional know that you have experienced a clot in the past, especially if you are going to have surgery.
  • Travel. If you have recently taken a trip that required you to be on a long flight or to sit in a vehicle for a prolonged period of time, your risk of developing a blood clot is 2 to 4 times higher in the weeks following travel.

What health conditions increase the odds of blood clots?

Some illnesses and health conditions can raise your risk of forming blood clots. If you have one of these conditions, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor about precautions you can take to lower your risk:

Blood clots can form anywhere in your body where there is a blood supply. Your symptoms will likely to depend on the location where the clot is blocking blood flow. Here are some of the signs to be aware of:

When should you go to the emergency room?

A blood clot can lead to a heart attack, stroke, or sudden death. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, or any of the symptoms of a heart attack or warning signs of stroke, it’s important to see a doctor right away — especially if you have any of the risk factors discussed above.

A blood clot can cause organ damage, heart attack, stroke, and other health problems. There are many risk factors to be aware that can raise your odds of developing a blood clot.

Some of the factors that raise your risk of blood clots are inherited, but there are steps you can take to reduce your overall risk. Talk with a healthcare professional about whether medication or compression garments might work for you.

Above all, know your risk factors in advance, so you can take the right precautions to keep yourself healthy.