What Causes a Blood Clot?

Blood Clots: Why You May Be at Risk

If you have a family history of heart disease or if you smoke regularly, you may be at risk for blood clots. Blood clots occur naturally when you get a scrape or a cut, as it is the body’s way of barricading wounds so it can repair them; this is why your blood gets thick and crusty and forms a scab, which is known as coagulation. When your blood clots, it forms a barrier to keep out bacteria and pathogens, but sometimes it can block the pathway of your blood as your heart pumps it through your body. This is why blood clots can be a major health risk; there are certain conditions you should be aware of to prevent this from becoming a life-threatening situation. Here are a few examples of what can lead to a risk of blood clots:

  • Family history can be a key indicator of your risk for blood clots.
  • Smoking can increase your risk of heart disease, which may lead to blood clots.
  • Obesity has been linked to many of the heart diseases that may cause blood clots.
  • Pregnancy has also been linked to blood clots, especially after multiple births.
  • Surgery may cause blood clotting in the veins and/or arteries.

High blood pressure and high cholesterol have been linked to the heart diseases associated with blood clots. High cholesterol can cause plaque to build up inside of your veins and arteries and cause your blood to clot. When this happens, the clot can stop blood flow altogether which can lead to thrombophlebitis, an inflammation of the vein. In the artery, a clot that stops blood flow can cause a heart attack, a stroke or a loss of feeling in the extremities, depending on where the clot forms. Reviewing your family’s medical history may help you determine your risk for blood clots.

Smoking tobacco products can increase your risk for heart diseases, as it may cause your platelets to stick together and lead to blood clots and even damage to the lining of your veins, which can slow your blood flow. Quitting smoking can reduce your risk of blood clots significantly and improve your health overall.

Studies show that obesity may directly affect your risk of heart disease and blood clots. Generally being overweight negatively affects your blood pressure and levels of cholesterol. Without regular exercise, your blood may move slower throughout your body, causing plaque to stick and build up along the linings of your veins and arteries. Moderate exercise 2-3 times a week can dramatically reduce your likeliness of dangerous blood clots forming internally. You should always consult your physician to be sure you are healthy enough for regular exercise.

Blood clots can also become an issue due to multiple pregnancies. Pregnancy can put a strain on the veins in the legs and the pelvic region and slow blood flow. Inactivity during pregnancy can also cause blockage in the veins and arteries. It is best to stay as active as possible before and after birth and to get check-ups regularly.

Surgery can sometimes result in blood clotting in the veins and/or arteries, due to the body’s attempt to repair the damaged tissues that occur after incisions are made or even from inactivity afterwards. You should always follow-up with a doctor regularly after undergoing any form of surgery. Even though these are likely naturally occurring blood clots, they can still be dangerous. If part of the clot breaks off, it can cause an embolism, which may block the flow of blood possibly leading to a heart attack or stroke.

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