Blood clot Risks
Your blood is an amazing, multipurpose substance. It flows continuously through the body, carrying oxygen and nutrients to your cells but if you get a scrape or cut, some of this flowing liquid quickly turns to a protective clot.
Clots are tangles of molecules and blood cells that clump together. They help prevent blood loss when the skin breaks open. They also help stop infections from getting inside the body. But when clotting happens inside a blood vessel, it can be dangerous.
Clots can form on the blood vessel walls to help them heal if they get damaged. Afterward, the clots usually dissolve. But sometimes a clot doesn’t get broken down as it’s supposed to. Clots may also form when they’re not needed.
Sometimes, clots break off a vessel wall and travel through the blood to other parts of the body. They may cause a lot of damage, depending on where they block blood flow.
Blood clots can potentially harm the brain, heart, lungs, or other organs. Researchers have made great
progress over the last few decades in managing blood clots. They continue to develop new ways to treat and prevent such blockages.
THREE MAIN THINGS CAN LEAD TO DANGEROUS BLOOD CLOTS.
- Abnormality that makes blood more likely to clot. For example, genetic causes, cancer, or damage from smoking.
- Failure of the blood to flow properly. This can be a side effect of diseases and disorders of the heart or blood vessels.
- Damage to the lining of blood vessels. One cause of such damage is cholesterol buildup in the blood. Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that can clump together to form plaques. If a plaque breaks apart, it can damage the blood vessel.
Blood clots can happen to anyone, at any age. But some people are at increased risk. These include older adults and those with certain heart conditions. Major surgery or a serious injury also adds risk.
Obesity, being physically inactive, and some medications can boost the chance of dangerous clot, too. “And once you have had one blood clot, you are at high risk of another one”. Some infections may also increase the risk of blood clotting. Recent studies have shown that the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS CoV-2, can cause blood clots in some people.
SYMPTOMS OF A CLOT
Blood clots can occur anywhere in the body. That makes it difficult to find them before they cause a problem. The symptoms of a blood clot depend on where they are. A clot blocking blood flow to the brain can lead to a stroke.
Symptoms of stroke range from sudden difficulty in seeing, speaking, or walking. They can also make you feel weak, numb, dizzy, or confused.
A clot that blocks blood flow to the heart can cause a heart attack. Common signs of Heart attack are crushing chest pain and difficulty breathing. Others range from cold sweats, to arm or shoulder pain. A clot in the lungs can cause shortness of breath, pain when breathing deeply, or even coughing up blood.
A clot in a vein deep within the body is called a deep vein thrombosis, or DVT. Symptoms include swelling, pain, and warmth, red or discolored skin. These usually happen in your legs.
Long periods of inactivity can increase your risk. “Compared with a heart attack or stroke, there’s low awareness of the symptoms of deep vein thrombosis,” Key says. Many symptoms overlap with less dangerous conditions, such as a muscle sprain.
If you have symptoms of a blood clot, call your health care provider or 911 immediately. You may need to go to the hospital to have blood or imaging tests.
BUSTING BLOOD CLOTS
Treatment depends on where a clot is and how long you have had symptoms. Certain drugs can break up and dissolve some types of clots, but they have to be given within a few hours of when symptoms start.
A type of surgery called a thrombectomy can be used to remove clots in large blood vessels. It can be used even if people don’t get to the hospital in time to receive clot-busting drugs. This technique has also let researchers study what clots are made of after they are removed.
Different types of clots might benefit from different removal techniques or drugs.
If you have a clot that’s forming, certain medications may help shrink it or stop it from growing. These drugs are called anticoagulants. They are more commonly known as blood thinners. Sometimes, people with certain heart conditions are given blood thinners to prevent blood clots from forming.
It should be noted that blood thinners can have side effects, including an increased risk of bleeding.
Recent research has shown that blood thinners may help in COVID-19. They might reduce the risk of blood clots and organ damage in people hospitalized with COVID-19.
WISE CHOICES TO REDUCE STROKE RISKS
- Reduce your risk of Blood Clots by:
- Eating a heart-healthy diet.
- Eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Limiting salt and red meat.
- Be physically active. Experts recommend that adults get at least 50 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week.
- Aim for a healthy weight. Excess weight can increase your chances of developing health conditions linked with blood clots.
- Healthy eating and physical activity can help prevent excess weight.
- Manage stress. Stress can contribute to high blood pressure and other heart disease risk.
Control high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
Talk with your doctor about how to manage these conditions.
Compiled by Dr. Ian Kansiime [Focus Medical Centre-NTINDA]