Blot clots are small clumps of blood that have formed into a gel-like substance. Although they are needed in the body to help prevent excessive bleeding when you get a cut, some that don’t dissolve naturally can be dangerous. And if they travel to organs such as the lungs or heart this is cause for serious concern.
Like many health conditions, there are certain factors that can raise your risk of blood clots, many of which aren’t the fault of the patient.
According to Nona Ozerianskaya, consultant dietitian at Benenden Hospital in Kent, these factors are:
- Older age
- Being overweight or obese with central distribution of fat (causes low grade inflammation)
- Having a family history of blood clots
- Having chronic medical conditions such as diabetes or cardiovascular diseases
- Recent or recurrent cancer
- During and just after pregnancy
- Taking oestrogen-based medicine such as hormonal birth control or hormone replacement therapy
- Undergoing injury, trauma or recent surgery
- Being immobile and not moving for long periods of time, for example extended bed rest in hospital, flying or prolonged travelling in a car/train.
How to lower your risk
Luckily there are ways to lower your risk of blood clots, including through diet and lifestyle choices.
Ms Ozerianskaya said: “In order to reduce the risk of developing blood clots, it is important that people maintain a healthy lifestyle and stick to a healthy, balanced diet where possible.
“Those that often consume foods which are high in sugar, saturated fat and trans fatty acids such as sugary drinks, margarine, cakes, biscuits, puddings, deep-fried foods and processed foods are increasing their risk of developing blood clots.
“Trans fatty acids such as hydrogenised, over processed oils should also be avoided as these increase production of free radicals, also known as oxidative stress.
“People that do not eat enough fruit, vegetables or oily fish are also more likely to be at higher risk of developing blood clots, so it is important to make these part of your diet.
“These types of food can trigger inflammatory processes in our body, including in our blood vessels.
“It also may change our microbiome (gut bacteria) into an unfavourable gut microbiome.”
Best foods to eat
Ms Ozerianskaya recommended the best foods to eat to reduce your risk.
“While there is no specific anti-inflammatory diet, the traditional Mediterranean diet has been associated with lower overall mortality and cardiovascular mortality as well as a decreased incidence of stroke,cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancers, including colorectal, prostate, aerodigestive, oropharyngeal, and breast cancers,” she said.
Typical foods included in a Mediterranean diet are:
- Olive oil
- Leafy green vegetables
- Fatty fish.
She advised “limiting” foods such as processed meats, refined grains, sugar, and fried food.
“Compared with anti-inflammatory diets, those diets that ‘promote’ inflammation have been linked in observational studies with multiple health risks, including an increased risk of total, cancer, and cardiovascular disease-related mortality,” she said.
Ms Ozerianskaya also championed the inclusion of:
- Proteins such as eggs, fish, lean poultry/meat, beans/lentils/chickpeas, tofu, low fat dairy
- Rainbow colour fruit and vegetables
- Healthy fats in moderation, such as avocado, seeds, nuts, olive oil, sunflower/ rice bran/ canola oil, nut oils
- Oily fish high in omega 3 fatty oils or vegetarian sources are flaxseeds/ linseeds or their oils
- Whole grains such as barley, oats, buckwheat, quinoa, cracked wheat, granary bread.
- Fermented food including yogurts, kefir and kimchi.
She said: “These foods offer nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, and antioxidants that directly lower inflammation.
“Polyphenols in the diet may also help to improve blood pressure, insulin resistance, and systemic inflammation.”
Finally, she recommended drinking plenty of water.
“It is also important to remain hydrated – I would recommend drinking 1.5 to two litres of fluid, preferably water, every day.
“There is also growing evidence that artificial sweeteners may alter our gut flora, so I would advise sticking to water rather than sugary or even diet drinks.”
Symptoms of a blood clot include:
- Throbbing or cramping pain, swelling, redness and warmth in a leg or arm
- Sudden breathlessness, sharp chest pain (may be worse when you breathe in) and a cough or coughing up blood.