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
Regular exercise appears to
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.
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.
If you smoke, now is the time to stop. Research shows that
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
Watch your sodium level
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.
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 likelyto experience blood clots.
- Pregnancy or childbirth. People who are pregnant or have recently had a baby are at a higher risk for blood clots.
Researchersthink 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 peopleand people in menopausecan 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 studythat 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 higherin 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:
- heart conditions such as congestive heart failure, atherosclerosis, and high blood pressure
- chronic kidney disease
- blood disorders
- Behcet’s disease
- rheumatoid arthritis
- systemic lupus erythematosus
- inflammatory bowel disease
- obstructive sleep apnea
- polycystic ovary syndrome
COVID-19 and blood clot risk
COVID-19 has caused some people with the illness to develop blood clots. Some of these clots formed in tiny blood vessels called capillaries, and other clots were large enough to cause heart attacks, strokes, and organ damage.
In very rare cases, some people developed blood clots after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. Researchers think these individuals may have had a rare immune response that caused the blood clots to form. Experts continue to affirm that the benefits of getting the vaccine vastly outweigh the risks for most people.
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:
- swelling, pain, warmth, or tenderness not related to an injury — especially in one or both of your legs
- an area of discoloration (redness or blueness) in the skin on your legs
- sudden difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- quick, jumpy, or irregular heartbeat
- dizziness or fainting
- low blood pressure
- chest pain, especially if the pain worsens when you cough or breathe deeply
- coughing up blood
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.