Cold weather can trigger harmful blood clots – health leaders on how to protect yourself

Blood clots can sometimes occur in good faith and try to stop the bleeding. However, the gel-like buildup that forms in your veins and arteries for no good reason can increase your risk of heart attacks and strokes. Worse still, outside temperature can play a role in this process and increase the risk.

Whether it’s hot and sunny or cold and frosty, your body is constantly fighting to keep your internal conditions “almost the same,” explains the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

Luckily, there are plenty of reflexes that can work to keep the internal temperature around 37.5°C.

Despite your body’s best efforts to protect you from sudden changes in temperature, there are still many health risks associated with low temperatures.

Unfortunately, freezing weather can also trigger harmful blood clots.

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The UKHSA states: “When we start to catch a cold, our blood becomes thicker, which can cause clotting.

“Blood clotting can cause problems and is one of the reasons we see more heart attacks and strokes on days after colder weather.”

Blood clots that form in the arteries leading to part of the heart muscle can trigger a heart attack. And gel-like clots that block an artery in the brain can cause a stroke.

Both of these medical emergencies can be life-threatening and require urgent medical attention, according to the NHS.

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In a previous interview with, Professor Mark Whiteley, a leading venous surgeon and founder of the Whiteley Clinic, also warned that cold weather could be dangerous for blood viscosity.

Professor Whiteley said: “Sudden changes in temperature, such as when people enter a warm building with central heating after being out in the cold, can cause heat stress to the body.

“That means he has to work harder to keep his temperature constant. This heat stress can have a direct effect on blood viscosity, making it more viscous and more prone to clotting.”

What does the study say?

The UKHSA and an expert are not the only ones to highlight this risk, as a study published in the journal International Angiology also warns that lower temperatures appear to be “significantly associated” with deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

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DVT describes the disease that occurs when a blood clot forms in a deep vein.

When looking at patients admitted to a hospital with DVT in Shenyang, China over a 10-year period, the results showed that low ambient temperature was associated with DVT manifestations, with exposure to cold sometimes delayed up to one week.

How to protect yourself

Fortunately, UKHSA health officials have shared that physical activity can protect you from this risk.

The UKHSA wrote: “Moving around can also help as it maintains blood flow throughout the body, which can prevent blood from clotting.

“If you have ever sat still for a long period of time, you know that you feel the cold more.

“If you can’t move, wiggle your toes and toes.

“It may not sound like much, but even small steps like this can help keep you warm and feeling good.”

The professor added that “just getting dressed and going for a brisk walk” can also help improve blood circulation.

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