Common Factors that Increase Risk for Blood Clots

Monday 10 May 2021
Blood Disorders

Table of Contents


I. What Causes Blood Clots?

II. The Link Between Obesity and Blood Clots

III. The Dangers of Smoking

IV. Genetic Risk Factors

V. Underlying Diseases and Conditions 


What Causes Blood Clots?

Many factors can trigger blood clots in the body. At its root, blood clots occur when there is an internal injury or rupture that calls upon the body’s clotting function to stop internal bleeding. If the amount of clotting is appropriate, the bleeding will stop.

The danger lies in too much clotting. If the body clots too much, the clots can break free, travel to important areas of the body, and block oxygen and nutrients from reaching that area. For example, a blood clot in the leg may travel to the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism. A blood clot that occurs in the brain can cause a stroke, and a blood clot in the heart can cause a heart attack. [1]

It is important to know if you are at risk for a blood clot. If you are at risk of a clotting event, your doctor may prescribe blood thinners (also called anticoagulants) like Coumadin (warfarin) or Dipyridamole + ASA to reduce your risk. Read on to learn about the common factors that put you at risk for a blood clot.

a medical scale

The Link Between Obesity and Blood Clots

A healthy weight is important for the body’s overall health. Studies have shown that being overweight is a major risk factor for blood clots. The link between obesity and deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is especially strong. [2] Obesity also significantly increases the risk of a blood clot after an invasive surgical procedure. [3] 

If your weight causes health problems, talk to your doctor about achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Studies indicate that even a little weight loss can be beneficial and reduce your risk of blood clots. The link between obesity and blood clot risk is linear. This means the more weight you lose (up until a healthy weight), the lower your risk for blood clots. [3]

A healthy lifestyle is a great way to lose weight and lower your risk of blood clots. This includes having a regular exercise routine, eating a heart-friendly diet, and drinking lots of water. Water makes your blood platelets less likely to clump and acts as a natural blood thinner. Discuss your diet with your dietician and your doctor to find an optimal diet for your body. [4]

The Dangers of Smoking

Smoking, or regularly being around second-hand smoke, is another major risk factor for blood clots. Smoking can be a difficult habit to kick, but if you prioritize your vascular health, it is essential to take steps towards quitting. This is because smoking causes significant damage to the blood vessel linings within the body. Damage in the blood vessels increases the risk of an internal injury, subsequently making a clotting event much more likely. [5]

a man smoking a cigarette

Giving your lungs time to heal can be very beneficial to your blood circulation. After a year of quitting smoking, your risk of blood clots will decrease by half. By quitting smoking, you also lower your risk of other health conditions, such as asthma, COPD, and heart disease. [6]

Genetic Risk Factors

Unfortunately, some risk factors are outside of our control. It is uncommon to inherit a high risk for blood clots. However, genetic defects can occur that impact the substances necessary to dissolve blood clots. 

If you have had repeated blood clots before the age of 40, or if you have family members with a history of blood clots, you may have a genetic defect that makes you more susceptible. For women, a history of miscarriages may also indicate a genetic defect that increases the risk of clots. [5]

Underlying Diseases and Conditions

Several conditions can lead to hypercoagulation (excessive blood clotting). For example, high cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis, a condition that occurs when too much plaque builds up inside your blood vessels. When plaque ruptures the artery or vein, a blood clot is highly likely to occur.

a woman having her blood pressure taken

Like high cholesterol, diabetes can lead to dangerous levels of plaque buildup and cause ruptures in the arteries. Another common condition that can lead to blood clots is heart failure. A weakened heart slows down blood flow, and a weak blood flow promotes clots to form. [5] 

If you are worried about your risk of blood clots, talk to your family physician today. Blood thinners are effective medications that can prevent blood clots, but the type and dosage must be prescribed by your doctor. Anticoagulants can interact with several other medications, but your doctor can tell you what type of medication is safe with Eliquis, Coumadin, and Aggrenox.

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.