Foods that Help Prevent Blood Clots
Blood clots form for a number of reasons: a surgical procedure, obesity, a medical condition, or an injury. Blood thinning and anticoagulation medications are commonly prescribed to prevent blood clots for individuals at risk. In addition to medication, a number of foods prove beneficial in preventing the development of blood clots.
Blood clots are commonly formed as a normal process in the body known as coagulation. In some cases, blood clotting is essential to prevent excessive bleeding, to promote healing, and reduce the risk of infection. In other cases, a blood clot can be deadly.
A number of conditions increase the risk of developing a life-threatening blood clot, such as higher ratios of "bad" cholesterol than "good" cholesterol. High levels of triglycerides (a type of fat found in the blood) also increase risk of blood clot formation.
Higher than normal levels of bad cholesterol causes atherosclerosis or buildup of plaque inside artery walls. Plaque buildup narrows blood vessels, causing blood flow to slow down (much as a closed lane on a freeway), increasing the risk of developing a blood clot. A blood clot that breaks off and floats through the bloodstream can easily block an artery or cause a stroke, heart attack, or a pulmonary embolism (PE).
How can food prevent a blood clot?
A nutritious and well-balanced diet containing a variety of phytochemicals is the first step toward promoting circulation and arterial and venous blood flow. Phytochemicals are physiologically active compounds found in many plants. While not generally considered essential nutrients, they have shown benefits in reducing potential for heart disease and cancer.
Foods containing flavonoids and phenols may prove beneficial in clot prevention. Flavonoids reduce plaque buildup in arteries, improve cholesterol levels, act as antioxidants, and decrease inflammation. Foods and beverages containing flavonoids and phenols include:
- fruits (grapes, cherries, apples, prunes, pears, citrus)
- whole grains
- black or green tea
- red wine
Phytoestrogens such as legumes and soy products protect against heart disease by decreasing levels of bad cholesterol and increasing levels of good cholesterol.
Organosulfur compounds such as leeks, onions, and garlic protect the heart because they reduce production of cholesterol in the liver.
Hydration is also an essential component of adequate circulation. Dehydration causes the blood to thicken, increasing risk of poor circulation and development of a blood clot.
Talk to your doctor or a nutritionist to ensure that your diet is protecting rather than harming you.
Does Aspirin Cause Blood Clots?
Aspirin is an over-the-counter product that’s been used for generations, not only to reduce pain and fever, but for other benefits as well. Does aspirin cause blood clots? No. That doesn’t mean that using it is without risks for some.
One of the benefits of low-dose aspirin (around 75 mg to 80 mg) daily has the potential to reduce risk of heart attack in those diagnosed with certain heart conditions. Daily aspirin therapy is nothing new but should always be recommended and monitored by a physician, as not all cardiac care cases are the same.
The components in aspirin interfere with the body’s automatic blood-clotting mechanisms. This can be beneficial to some, detrimental to others. The concept with cardiac care patients is that aspirin restricts the body’s ability to clot blood, thereby acting much like a blood thinner and reducing risk of a clot that reaches the heart.
Aspirin acts as a blood thinner by reducing the ability of blood platelets – a component of blood that contain anti-clotting factors – to clump together. This clumping mechanism is the early process of forming a blood clot.
Aspirin therapy risks need to be considered
Not everyone should take an aspirin a day (even if it’s low-dose) to prevent possible blood clots from forming. The body is supposed to trigger blood clotting factors to stop bleeding from an injured blood vessel. Only those who have had a heart attack, stroke, a stent placed, or someone at high risk for heart attack or stroke should consider it and then only when it’s recommended by your physician. The same goes for people diagnosed with additional co-morbidities such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
Those considering daily aspirin therapy should know that risks of bleeding increases with aspirin use, especially among those taking the daily aspirin who don’t have cardiovascular issues.
Aspirin therapy does not guarantee that blood clots won’t form in the body or prevent a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) from forming in the leg. According to the American Heart Association, potential users are cautioned that taking aspirin daily as a blood thinner can contribute to other risks for some users, such as:
- Those who have developed an allergy or intolerance to it
- Those who are habitual alcohol drinkers
- Those who are at risk of a hemorrhagic stroke
- Those who are at a risk for gastrointestinal bleeding
While aspirin doesn’t cause blood clots, it’s always best to consult with your doctor before starting on any aspirin therapy as a preventative for blood clot development.
We’ve all felt it – that teeth-grinding muscle spasm in the arch of the foot, the back of the calf, or the back of the thigh (hamstrings). When do you know if that Charlie Horse is more than a muscle cramp? What if you get them often? How can you tell the difference between a Charlie Horse and a possible blot clot?
Charlie Horse vs. Blood Clot
A Charlie Horse is a nickname for a muscle spasm or cramp. This cramping or contraction of a muscle or group of muscles can be incredibly painful. Depending on the duration of a Charlie Horse, pain can be quite severe and soreness may exists for hours or even up to a day afterward.
A blood clot is known as a thrombus. Blood clots usually form over an injury to a blood vessel. Any time a blood vessel is injured, the body sends a signal to the brain. The brain then signals a rush of blood platelets and clotting factors to the area. Platelets are sticky blood cells that clump together to bind to the wall of the vessel to stop bleeding or leaking from a tear or injury to the wall of a blood vessel.
So which is it? A blood clot or a Charlie Horse?
Charlie Horses are caused by a number of situations, such as:
- A muscle injury
- Inadequate blood flow (blood transports oxygen – lack of blood flow decreases oxygen to the body’s cells in the affected area)
- Exercising in very hot or very cold weather
- Muscle strain or overuse
Several of the above situations that trigger a Charlie Horse may also increase risk of blood clot development, especially dehydration and inadequate blood flow, such as remaining sedentary for long periods of time. Dehydration causes blood to thicken and blood flow to decrease, causing it to grow sluggish as it moves through the blood vessels. When blood flow slows down, an increased risk of blood particles sticking together to form clots occurs.
Experiencing a Charlie Horse once in a while is not usually a cause for concern. In many cases, they respond almost immediately to massage, stretching, or ‘walking it off’. However, if you experience a Charlie Horse more than once a week, it’s recommended to schedule a visit with your physician to determine the underlying cause.
A special thank you to Richard M. Cohen for helping the American Blood Clot Association to educate the public about the danger of blood clots. Mr. Cohen has been the recipient of numerous awards in journalism, including three Emmys, a George Foster Peabody and a Cable Ace Award. He is married to journalist, Meredith Vieira of the Meredith Vieira Show, with whom he has three grown children. Here is his story, it is a great video:
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