How to Know If You Are at Risk for Blood Clots

Daniel Marcus';

By Daniel Marcus

Posted on March 4th, 2022 in News, Myths & Tips

Occurring when certain components of your blood thicken, a blood clot is also known as venous thromboembolism.

Every year, roughly 900,000 people in America experience a serious, life-threatening health issue because of a blood clot.

There are two types of blood clots. The first, deep vein thrombosis, is located in a deep vein in your arm or leg, whereas the second, pulmonary embolism, forms when a blood clot from a deep vein in your arm or leg travels to your lungs. It is paramount to note that blood clots can be deadly, as up to 100,000 people with this problem lose their lives annually in the United States.

Unsettlingly, anyone can experience a blood clot, regardless of age, but a sliver of hope is that they are often preventable. Timely diagnosis is essential for preventing health complications and death from a blood clot. In cancer patients, blood clots are the leading cause of death after cancer itself. The management of blood clots is also expensive, as treatment costs between $15,000 and $20,000 and usually results in the person being readmitted to the hospital.

After finding out the basics about blood clots, you may wonder whether you are at risk. The following article will explore the risk factors for blood clots, as well as how to prevent developing one.

What Are the Risk Factors for Blood Clots?

There are numerous factors that can lead to excessive blood clotting, which limits or obstructs blood flow. Perhaps the most alarming thing about blood clots is that they can travel to the arteries or veins in the brain, kidneys, limbs, heart, and lungs. In turn, this can cause a heart attack, stroke, damage to organs, or even death. The risk factors for blood clots can be genetic, acquired, or stemming from various health conditions.

Genetic Risk Factors

Although these risk factors are relatively uncommon, they exist, and people who have one or more should be aware they exist so as to know they make them susceptible to blood clots. The inherited source of excessive blood clotting is usually due to genetic defects. These defects are often present in the proteins required for blood clotting and can also occur with the substances that delay or dissolve blood clots. These are the genetic risk factors for blood clots:

  • one or multiple family members who have experienced dangerous blood clots
  • a personal history of recurring blood clots before the age of 40
  • a personal history of unexplained miscarriages
  • a person with two copies of the factor V Leiden mutation in each cell

Acquired Risk Factors

This series of factors refers to your lifestyle choices, as some detrimental choices might put you at high risk of developing blood clots. However, acquired risk factors are not only related to your lifestyle choices, as some just happen or are necessary for the treatment of certain health conditions. The following are the acquired risk factors most commonly associated with blood clots:

  • being overweight or obese
  • pregnancy
  • lengthy bed rest due to surgery or hospitalization
  • taking birth control pills
  • struggling with cancer
  • hormone replacement therapy
  • long periods of sitting
  • cigarette smoking

Health Conditions Making Blood Clots More Likely

Unfortunately, there are also a plethora of health issues that increase your risk of blood clots. While most are incurable, if you struggle with one, you will have to learn how to best manage it with the right treatment by discussing it with your doctor. This way, it will pose a risk as small as possible when it comes to developing blood clots. These are only some of the health issues that are linked to a higher risk of blood clots:

  • atherosclerosis
  • vasculitis
  • diabetes
  • heart failure
  • atrial fibrillation
  • metabolic syndrome
  • peripheral artery disease
  • HIV infection
  • increased homocysteine levels
  • dehydration
  • coronavirus infection
  • high blood pressure
  • chronic inflammatory diseases
  • high cholesterol
  • cancer
  • injury to a vein because of a broken bone or muscle injury
  • severe trauma, such as a car accident

Sadly, pulmonary embolism is the leading cause of death in women who are pregnant or who have just delivered a baby. 1 out of 4 people with a pulmonary embolism die without warning. People over the age of 60 are most prone to developing a blood clot, but it can affect individuals of any age. The health complications of a blood clot are usually very serious, including postphlebitic syndrome, in which damage to your veins reduces blood flow in the affected regions, causing leg pain and swelling, skin discoloration, skin sores, and treatment complications, which can result from blood thinners used to treat deep vein thrombosis and involve excessive bleeding.

The Most Common Symptoms Caused by a Blood Clot

If you develop a blood clot, your symptoms will highly depend on where it is occurring. Nevertheless, some people may not experience any symptoms even if their situation is severe. These are the symptoms of a blood clot by the area of the body they can affect:

  • the abdomen: the most usual symptoms of a blood clot in the abdomen are nausea, vomiting, pain, bloody stools, diarrhea, and fluid accumulation in the abdomen
  • the legs or arms: a blood clot in your arm or leg can feel painful or tender to the touch and is generally accompanied by swelling, redness, and warmth
  • the brain: stroke is usually the result of a blood clot reaching the brain, and it causes symptoms such as difficulty speaking or seeing clearly, inability to move or feel one side of your body, and, in some cases, seizures
  • the heart: usually, a blood clot in the heart causes symptoms of a heart attack, such as severe chest pain, sweating, pain that travels down the left arm, and shortness of breath
  • the lungs: if a blood clot has reached the lungs, you can experience chest pain, difficulty breathing, and coughing up blood

How to Prevent Blood Clots

Luckily, blood clots are one of the most preventable health problems if you make sure to lead a healthy and balanced lifestyle and eliminate poor habits from it. The following are the things you can do to avoid experiencing a blood clot, which can be fatal:

  • engage in regular physical activity
  • quit smoking if you are a smoker, as this habit increases the risk of deep vein thrombosis
  • have a balanced and healthy diet
  • maintain a healthy weight
  • keep your health problems under control with the right treatment
  • make sure you undergo cancer screenings if you are prone to certain cancers
  • keep yourself hydrated throughout the day
  • avoid sitting for long periods, such as when driving, traveling by plane, or lying in bed
  • wear loose-fitting clothes, socks, and stockings
  • raise your legs above your heart from time to time
  • reduce your intake of salt
  • do not use pillows under your knees
  • change your position as often as possible, particularly during a long trip

If you are susceptible to blood clots because of a risk factor that is out of your control, we advise you to keep in touch with your doctor and regularly undergo overall health examinations to make sure you maintain your risk as low as possible. Finally, if you experience some of the symptoms above, seek medical attention immediately, as if left untreated, blood clots might travel to a vital part of your body and might eventually kill you.