Welcome to Thoughty Thursday here at More Cowbell! This is the day of the week when y’all get to be privy to whatever thoughts are swimming around my brain.
Today I’m thinking about blood clots, of all things.
I received a call from my cousin yesterday and she’s got DVT (that’s deep vein thrombosis) in her right leg. Gah! She’s not even 40 years old.
Why did she reach out to me, you might ask? (Besides that I’m one of her fave peeps?)
Well, I’m kind of the blood clot expert amongst my family and friends. And no, I’m not a doctor; this is all hands-on learning, if you know what I mean.
My cousin called because I’ve had scads of blood clots (one in each leg [called bilateral DVT] and about 50 in my lungs [called pulmonary embolism]). I always joke that “my platelets really like to get their love on.”
For those of you who are newer here, you might not know I have a blood clotting disorder called Factor V Leiden. I found out that fun little fact when I GOT the blood clots.
Before y’all freak, I’m fine. I’m not going to keel over tomorrow. Probably. *kidding*
Clotting disorders can be managed quite easily, as is evidenced by the fact that I’ve not had another one since the first incident back in 2005. Still, as I chatted with my cousin, it occurred to me that I have a metric ton of blood clot prevention info stored up in my brain.
I’m sharing it with my More Cowbell Posse because…
Anyone can get a blood clot.
Seriously. You don’t have to be hypercoagulent like me to develop them. In fact, when I got all my pesky clots, I was 37 years old and did kickboxing three times a week.
But I was engaging in some risky blood clot behavior:
- Sitting long hours at a desk.
- Drinking lots of coffee and not enough water.
- Taking birth control pills.
- Stressing out about a crazy work project.
- I’d just put on a 5-10 pounds from the Pill and the aforementioned project.
- I sat most of those long hours in a cold room with air conditioning blowing on me.
- As a result, I was dehydrated.
Sound familiar?? That could describe the life of any writer or computer programmer.
Because the above behaviors are pretty normal, Americans are at an increased risk these days to develop a blood clot. However, just because anyone can get a blood clot doesn’t mean anyone will. Unlike mine, your #5 gene is likely normal.
There are many things you can learn and do to decrease the likelihood of a blood clot. That’s what this post is about. Consider it my public service for the year.
I think this information is so important I’m doing this post in two parts:
- Part 1 (today) has the macro things you should know.
- In tomorrow’s Part 2, I’ll discuss specific (and easy) behavior changes you can make.
This series is about knowledge and prevention.
Here are 5 Things YOU should know about blood clots:
#1 – What causes them?
There a few short-term causes for blood clots like smoking, taking the Pill, and surgery, but here are the top four most common risk factors:
- A previous history of blood clots
- A genetic disorder like mine (list of common clotting disorders)
For women, the 5th most common risk factor is pregnancy, since the body creates an extra FOUR POUNDS of blood over the course of nine months. (Can we say “pregnancy glow?”). Also, the weight of the baby pressing on veins in the pelvis can slow blood return from the legs.
Clots are more likely to form when blood slows or pools, like when you’re sitting long periods in a chair or traveling long distances in a car or plane.
For most of you, your blood clot risks are VERY preventable. Of those big four up there, you may only ever have obesity or cancer.
#2 – Stay hydrated — like REALLY hydrated
Believe it or not, this is the hardest one for me. I am not a happy water drinker. But how much water do you really need?
Those recommended 8 glasses of water a day are the minimum. Really, that’s only 64 ounces. The easy formula for your total water intake each day is: halve your weight and drink that number of ounces of water. So, a 200 pound man would need 100 ounces of water a day. A 140 pound woman would need 70 ounces.
My motto is: Drink enough to make your pee-pee clear and be done with it.
#3 – Be aware of foods high in Vitamin K
Vitamin K is very, very good for you but people with any of the four risk factors need to be aware of what it does and how much of it they ingest through their food.
In the body, vitamin K plays a major role in blood clotting. Since it thickens the blood, it’s often used to reverse the effects of “blood thinning” medications like Coumadin when the dosage is too high. If you have a clotting disorder, it’s imperative you be aware of your Vitamin K consumption. The kicker is these foods are really good for you too.
Conversely, you should be aware of the foods most likely to prevent blood clots. Garlic, ginger, fish oils, flax seeds, peppermint and cinnamon are all staples for me because they help my body naturally prevent blood clots. Plus, most of ’em keep my platelets slippery.
#4 – An aspirin a day really does help keep the doctor away
I’m talking about baby aspirin here. Taking a full adult aspirin (about 325 mg) daily should only be done at the advice of a doctor.
However, aspirin is an anti-coagulent and I do take at least one baby aspirin every day. If you’ve had a blood clot or are at high risk of one, your doctor probably already told you to take fish oil and baby aspirin daily.
Note: if you’re on an anti-coagulent medication DO NOT take aspirin.
#5 – Change behaviors that increase the likelihood of a blood clot
There are simple daily things you can do and behaviors you can modify to decrease your chances of developing a blood clot. I’m discussing them tomorrow in Part 2.
Do you have any personal experience with blood clots? What’s your story? Do you have questions? Are there other pieces of “macro” knowledge you’d like to share? Enquiring minds need to know these things here at More Cowbell!