A dangerous blood clot (or thrombus) is a clump of blood that forms inside a blood vessel. These blood clots can limit blood supply to parts of the body or travel to the heart, lungs, and brain - both of which can be extremely dangerous or even life-threatening.
Blood clotting is an essential bodily function that helps us stop bleeding and heal cuts and injuries. Unfortunately, the very same process is behind dangerous blood clots, which explains why anyone can develop a blood clot. Preventing blood clots is beneficial and advised for all of us - and here are 9 simple lifestyle changes that will help you achieve that goal.
- Underlying health conditions, such as heart disease, hypertension, cancer, arthritis, diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, and even past COVID-19 make you more likely to get a blood clot.
- Medications. Birth control and hormonal therapies can increase your risk of blood clots.
- Surgery and trauma can leave people immobile for long periods of time, which can further increase the risk of getting a blood clot.
- Travel. Long flights or drives lead to prolonged sitting, which can increase one’s risk of developing a blood clot by 2-4 times in the following weeks.
We discuss these specific categories in the article Are You at Risk of a Blood Clot? in greater detail. A blood clot stuck in a blood vessel can lead to deep vein thrombosis (DVT), stroke, or pulmonary embolism - which can be potentially life-threatening.
Symptoms of a blood clot vary depending on the location of the blood clot and range from asymptomatic to pain, difficulty breathing, chest pain, numbness in the face or arms, and coughing up blood. For a comprehensive review of symptoms, go here - Symptoms of a Dangerous Blood Clot. It doesn't matter if you’ve already experienced a blood clot in the past or just want to prevent it because you’re at a higher risk of developing one, here are some simple habits you can incorporate into your daily routine that will help stave off blood clots.
Hiking your legs up to the height of 6 inches (15 cm) above the level of your heart is a simple and effective way to prevent blood clots, especially if you’re at risk of developing a thrombus. Elevating your legs will help keep your circulation going even in your sleep. You can use a special pillow to raise your legs, or simply put a stack of books under your mattress.
Sleeping with your legs elevated can also reduce swelling in the legs and feet and relieve the discomfort that accompanies poor blood circulation and swelling. If sleeping with legs raised is not your thing, you can also elevate your legs occasionally, like when you’re watching TV on the couch or reading something.
Dehydration can thicken blood, which may cause a blood clot to form or break off. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water - enough for your urine to be pale yellow or almost clear in color. It may be somewhat unsavory to read or track the color of urine, but it’s truly the best objective way to make sure that you’re well-hydrated.
A review article published in The Journal of Nutrition also suggests that drinking purple grape juice or red wine in moderation can help prevent blood platelets from becoming stuck to each other - all thanks to their high antioxidant (polyphenol) content.
Have you bumped your knee lately? If so, you may have noticed some bruising. Well, guess what? That bruise is a blood clot too, but don’t worry - it’s likely not the dangerous kind. In people who have a high risk of thrombosis, seemingly injuries like banging your leg real hard against a table or just the habit of sitting with your legs crossed for a long time can cause a dangerous blood clot.
So try to be careful with the way you sit and move the furniture around a bit if there’s a specific table or couch that keeps giving you bruises.
Regular exercise or any physical activity is probably the best way to prevent a blood clot from forming. Exercising your lower legs, in particular, helps maintain healthy circulation. The only thing to keep in mind if you have a high risk of thrombosis is exercise intensity.
If you have been inactive for a prolonged period of time, don’t just to an intensive workout schedule right away. Start with light or moderate activities. Otherwise, you could risk loosening a blood clot that’s already formed.
High salt consumption can increase blood clotting because it impairs the functioning of the endothelium - the inner lining of blood vessels. Studies suggest that people who eat more salt also have a higher risk of developing thrombosis. Therefore, watching your sodium intake closely and making sure that you don’t eat more than the recommended 1 teaspoon of salt (2,300 mg) a day is a crucial aspect of preventing a blood clot.