Risk Factors for Blood Clots

Friday 19 February 2021
Blood thinners

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Jubil Tom, MD
on 3 May 2021

Table of Contents


I. Symptoms of a Blood Clot

II. General Risk Factors

III. Inactivity

IV. Diabetes

V. High Blood Pressure

VI. High Cholesterol


Symptoms of a Blood Clot

The blood’s ability to clot is a massively important function in the body. Blood that cannot clot allows for excessive bleeding, making even small cuts and wounds very dangerous. But some factors can cause the blood in your body to clot in the wrong places. When this happens, you may feel: 

  • A heaviness in your chest, discomfort in the upper body, shortness of breath, and nausea
  • Difficulty speaking, vision problems, and dizziness
  • Severe abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Sharp chest pain
  • Sudden pain and tenderness in the arms and legs
  • Weakness in the arms, legs, and face [1]

If these symptoms occur, talk to your doctor. Common medications for blood clots include Aggrenox (dipyridamole + ASA), Coumadin (warfarin), Elmiron (pentosan polysulfate sodium), and Eliquis (apixaban). Continue reading to learn about factors that can increase the risk of a blood clot. 

some pills on a purple background

General Risk Factors 

Several things factor into blood clot risk. Generally, those over the age of 60 are at a higher risk of having a blood clot than younger people. A family history of blood clots is also a major contributing factor, so you may want to be cautious if a close relative has had blood clots. Normally, blood clots go to work when physical trauma to the body takes place. This means that being in an accident, even when no open wounds are sustained, can increase your risk of a blood clot. [1] Read on to learn about specific risk factors for blood clots.

Inactivity

Being sedentary is one of the leading causes of blood clots. Activities that require sitting, such as flying or driving, mean that your leg muscles do not contract for long periods. Muscle contraction is vital for blood circulation, so being still for hours can increase your risk of a blood clot. Sometimes, prolonged bed rest from long hospital stays can cause blood clots to form in the calves. People who are paralyzed experience the same problem. Doctors and nurses may massage the patient’s legs periodically to maintain blood circulation. [2]

a person being inactive, eating popcorn while watching television

Inactivity is also a leading cause of obesity, which is a risk factor for blood clots. This is because obesity increases pressure in the abdomen, reducing the calf muscle’s ability to return blood from the legs. Obesity can also increase body-wide inflammation, and this may cause the blood to clot more frequently. [3] 

Diabetes

Why does diabetes increase the risk of blood clots? To understand this, recall that physical trauma can trigger the blood to do its job and clot even when there are no external wounds. 

Diabetes can cause plaque buildup in the arteries. This can cause blood clots. But when plaque buildup breaks apart inside your blood vessels, your blood may react to this as it would to an external wound and clot to stop bleeding. Blood clots are one of the most dangerous complications for diabetes patients. Blood clots cause almost 80 percent of diabetes-related deaths. [4]

a nurse taking an older woman’s blood sugar level

High Blood Pressure

Those who have high blood pressure are similarly exposed to the risk of blood clots. High blood pressure can damage the blood vessels inside your body by causing them to narrow. Narrowed blood vessels tend to rupture or leak. This can prompt the blood to clot to prevent excessive leakage. If a narrowed blood vessel leading to your brain ruptures and a blood clot blocks the blood flow to your brain, a stroke can happen. [5]

High Cholesterol 

People with high cholesterol should also watch out for blood clots. High cholesterol can cause fatty deposits to accumulate inside your veins and arteries. These buildups can break off suddenly into the bloodstream. Because blood clots can be triggered by both external and internal trauma, fatty deposits that rupture blood vessels can lead to stroke or a heart attack, depending on the location of the blood clot. [6]

Lowering your risk often involves addressing conditions that can lead to blood clots. If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, talking to your doctor may help you understand how your treatment plan works to avoid blood clots. Staying active and eating a healthy diet can help prevent obesity and maintain blood circulation. 

If you are pregnant, ask your doctor for an assessment of your risk of blood clots. Depending on your health, pregnancy may sometimes make blood clots more likely. Those who are at high risk for blood clots may be prescribed Aggrenox (dipyridamole + ASA), Coumadin (warfarin), Elmiron (pentosan polysulfate sodium), or Eliquis (apixaban). If you are concerned about getting a blood clot, consult your doctor to find the right treatment plan for you. 

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.