Deep Vein Thrombosis - Are You At Risk?

Deep Vein Thrombosis - Are You At Risk?

Each year more people die from deep vein thrombosis (DVT) than the total number who die from AIDS, breast cancer, and motor vehicle accidents combined. What is DVT? It is the formation of a blood clot in a deep vein, usually in the lower leg or in the thigh. A clot is composed of a meshwork of fibrin threads that entrap plasma, red blood cells, and platelets.

A blood clot that forms within a vessel and remains there is called a thrombus. It slows down blood flow and prevents the loss of blood. Of course, we want our blood to clot when we cut a blood vessel. What we don’t want is undesirable clotting, which occurs when a clot forms at a site where there is no bleeding, resulting in obstructed blood flow.

Clots often form when the fibrous cap of an atherosclerotic plaque cracks, which reduces blood flow through that specific artery even more. A clot just the size of a sharpened pencil tip can significantly reduce blood flow. Even worse, clots can dislodge, travel, and thereby reduce the blood flow within distant organs such as the brain, heart, and lungs. A blood clot that travels is called an embolus. More than 80% of heart attacks are caused when an undesirable clot develops, blocking the blood flow in one of the coronary arteries that supply the heart muscle.

Pain, tenderness, swelling, and discoloration in a leg can be signs and symptoms of DVT. More than 70% of individuals who develop DVT will not experience any symptoms until it is too late and the clot has dislodged.

DVT has come to the public’s attention over the past few years after airline passengers on cramped, long-haul flights developed clots in what some have called “economy-class syndrome.” In fact, French studies show that riding in a car or truck for four to five hours without stopping for an exercise break increases the risk of DVT four times.1 A large data-base revealed that DVT was twice as high after an acute lung infection. Pulmonary embolism also doubled after an acute urinary tract infection.2 Men are 50% more likely than women to develop another blood clot after having a first episode of DVT. The overall frequency of recurrent blood clots in men is 25% after five years.3

Within the human body, there is a balance of anti-clotting and pro-clotting factors. Major surgery, trauma, atrial fibrillation cancer, prolonged bed rest and immobility, varicose veins, pregnancy, and estrogen-containing pills or patches increase the risk for developing DVT. Unfortunately, the typical Western diet and lifestyle, obesity,45 and diabetes,6 also encourage undesirable clotting by increasing pro-clotting chemicals, making the platelets abnormally sticky and promoting other pro-clotting conditions within the body. In addition, these conditions decrease the natural inhibitors of undesirable clot formation.

How can we reduce the risk of undesirable clotting?

  1. Reach and maintain your ideal weight. Obesity increases certain pro-clotting factors in the blood. Researchers at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland Hospital in Pontiac, Michigan, and Wayne State University found that obese patients were 2.5 times as likely to have DVT and 2.2 times as likely to have a pulmonary embolism.7 Fortunately, appropriate weight loss reduces elevated pro-clotting and pro-inflammatory agents in obese individuals.
  2. Don’t smoke. Tobacco smoking increases the clumping of platelets, which in turn, increases the risk for undesirable clot formation.8
  3. Adopt a healthful diet. Meat and saturated fats increase the risk of clotting by decreasing prostacyclin, a prostaglandin that inhibits platelet clumping.9 As platelets become stickier, the risk of developing undesirable clotting increases. In contrast, frequent consumption of foods that contain phytochemicals that inhibit platelet clumping like citrus,10 red grapes,1112 kiwi,13 berries,141516 pomegranates,17 olives,18 flaxseed,19 tomatoes,20 and onions21 can also help to reduce the risk of undesirable clotting.
  4. Engage in daily moderate exercise. Sluggish circulation is a major risk factor in developing clots. Moderate exercise increases fibrinolysin, which dissolves tiny clots and improves blood flow and decreases fibrinogen, a plasma protein involved in clot formation. Perform foot exercises while riding in a plane or car. Take exercise breaks during long trips. A word of caution: balance is needed concerning exercise—extremely competitive exercise actually increases the risk of clot formation because it increases the hormone epinephrine.
  5. Drink water. Adequate hydration and deep breathing also improve blood flow. These two preventive measures are especially important for those with limited mobility.
  6. Enjoy healthful herbs and seasonings. Turmeric,22 ginger,2324garlic,25 and ginkgo biloba26 inhibit platelet clumping as well. Thyme and rosemary have significant anti-thrombotic factors.2728 However, people who use blood thinners, have low platelet counts, or have bleeding problems should consult their physician before using medicinal amounts of these herbs. Pregnant women should not consume any herb medicinally without prior approval from a knowledgeable, qualified health-care professional. Blood-thinning herbs, if used medicinally, should usually be discontinued two weeks prior to any surgery or dental work.
  7. Keep your homocysteine level within normal range. Homocysteine is an amino acid produced by the body and is usually a byproduct of meat consumption. Elevated homocysteine injures the cells that line the arteries and stimulates the unhealthy growth of smooth muscle cells; both processes contribute to atherosclerosis. It also increases the risk for undesirable clotting that, in turn, increases the risk for DVT, strokes, and heart attacks.
    Excessive homocysteine increases the risk of undesirable clotting and blood vessel constriction. Low intake of both vitamin B12 and folic acid increases the risk for elevated homocysteine levels. Vegetarians should have their B12 levels checked every six months if they do not take a vitamin B12 supplement.
  8. Maintain a cheerful outlook. Acute stress and mental depression can increase the risk of forming an undesirable clot. Major depression, for example, increases platelet aggregation29 and the risk for cardiovascular events.

Some medical epidemiologists state that between one and two million Americans develop DVT annually. One expert predicts that one to three individuals out of a thousand in the United Kingdom will get DVT. What are your chances of developing DVT? It greatly depends upon your lifestyle. The goods news is that most clots are preventable and if they are caught early, often are treatable. Clots can be deadly. See your health care provider if you are at risk for DVT.


 

References:

  1. Deep Vein Thrombosis, BBC News edition.

  2. Smeeth, L., The Lancet, 367:1075-079, April 1, 2006.

  3. http://news.bio-medicine.org/medicine-news-3/Men-more-at-risk-of-recurrent-blood-clots-than-women-3748-1/

  4. Web, M.D., Obesity ups the risk of Pulmonary Embolism, DVT, Sept 9, 2005.

  5. Rissanen, P., et al, Weight change and blood coagulability and fibrinolysis in healthy obese women. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord, 25(2):212-218, 2001.

  6. http://www.lifeclinic.com/focus/Diabetes/Stroke

  7. Ibid, Web, M.D.

  8. Davis, J.W., et al, Effects of tobacco and non-tobacco cigarette smoking on endothelium and platelets. Clin Pharmacol Ther, 37(5):529-533, 1985.

  9. Baldwin, B.E., Lecture on Platelets and Clotting, College of Health Evangelism, Wildwood, GA, 2004.

  10. Attaway, J.A., et al, Antithrombogenic and antiatherogenic effects of citrus flavonoids. Contributions of Ralph C. Robbins. Adv Exp Med Biol, 439:165-73, 1998.

  11. De Lange, D.W., et al, Polyphenolic grape extract inhibits platelet activation through PECAM-1: an explanation for the French paradox. Alcohol Clin Exp Res, 31(8):1308-14, 2007.

  12. Visteva, O., et al, Grape seed and skin extracts inhibit platelet function and release of reactive oxygen intermediates. J Cardiovasc Pharmaco, 46(4):445-451, 2005.

  13. Duttaroy, A.K., et al, Effects of kiwi fruit consumption on platelet aggregation and plasma lipids in healthy human volunteers. Platelets, 15(5):287-92, 2004.

  14. Naemura, A., An experimentally antithrombotic strawberry variety is also effective in humans. Pathophysiol Haemost Thromb, 35(5):398-404, 2006.

  15. Cignarella, A., et al, Novel lipid-lowering properties of Vaccinium myrtillus L. leaves, a traditional anti-diabetic treatment, in several models of rat dyslipidaemia: a comparison with ciprofibrate. Thromb Res, 84(5):311-22, 1996.

  16. Reed, J., Cranberry flavonoids, atherosclerosis and cardiovascular health. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr, 42(Suppl 3):301-316, 2004.

  17. Aviram, M., et al, Pomegranate juice consumption reduces oxidative stress, atherogenic modifications to LDL, and platelet aggregation: studies in humans and in atherosclerotic apolipoprotein E-deficient mice. Am J Clin Nutr, 71(5):1062-1076, 2000.

  18. Massaro, M., et al, Vasculoprotective potential of olive oil components. Mol Nutr Food Res, 51(10):1225-34, 2007.

  19. Ristić-Medić, D., Ristić, G., Tepsić, V., Alpha-linolenic acid and cardiovascular diseases. Med Pregl, 56(Suppl 1):19-25, 2003.

  20. Yamamoto, J., et al, Tomatoes have natural anti-thrombotic effects. Br J Nutr. 90(6):1031-8, 2003.

  21. Griffiths, G., et al, Onions—a global benefit to health. Phytother Res, 16(7):603-15, 2002, review.

  22. Shah, B.H., et al, Inhibitory effect of curcumin, a food spice from turmeric, on platelet-activating factor, and arachidonic acid-mediated platelet aggregation through inhibition of thromboxane formation and Ca2+ signaling. Biochem Pharmac, 58(7):1167-1172, 1999.

  23. Jantan, I., et al, Inhibitory effect of compounds from Zingiberaceae species on human platelet aggregation. Phytomedicine, 15(4):306-9, 2008.

  24. Nurtjahja-Tjendraputra, E., et al, Effective anti-platelet and COX-1 enzyme inhibitors from pungent constituents of ginger. Thromb Res, 111(4-5):259- 65, 2003.

  25. Rahman, K., et al, Dietary Supplementation with Aged Garlic Extract Inhibits ADP-Induced Platelet Aggregation in Humans. Journal of Nutrition, 130:2662-2665, 2000.

  26. Lange, Dianne Partie, Herbal Brain Saver, WebMD Health News May 2, 2000

  27. Yamamoto, J., Testing various herbs for antithrombotic effect. Nutrition, 21(5):5, 2005.

  28. Zbinden, S. and Seiler, C., Phytotherapy in cardiovascular medicine. Ther Umsch, 59(6):301-306, 2002.

  29. Ziegelstein, R.C., et al, Platelet function in patients with major depression. Intern Med J, 39(1):38-43, 2009.

Comments ( 1 ) Leave a Comment
  1. 1 Orquidea Oct 24, 2013, 11:12 AM PDT

    Thank you for much needed information.

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