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Condition - Matters of the heart: Thrombosis

By Kelly Walker DipION FdSc VN

Often associated with long haul flights, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is just one type of thrombosis affecting between one and three in every 1,000 people each year. Here’s some heart-felt advice to help reduce your risk.

Thrombosis is the clotting of blood within a blood vessel. It may occur in veins or arteries obstructing or stopping blood flow. In some cases, the blood clot can become dislodged and move within the blood, known as an embolus. Blood normally circulates freely within our blood vessels and supplies vital oxygen and nutrients to our tissues. In fact, the body has about 5.6 litres of blood, which circulates through the body three times every minute. A clot can occur in many areas of the body. If arteries supplying the heart are blocked, a heart attack can result. A block within the carotid arteries supplying the brain can cause a stroke, while clots developing in a deep vein, usually in the lower leg, can lead to DVT (deep vein thrombosis). Larger DVT clots can cause pain in the leg and can lead to complications, such as clots, known as embolisms, lodged in other parts of the body.  

Are You at Risk?

There are a range of risk factors  for DVT, including physical and physiological stress, smoking, increasing age, lack of physical activity,  unhealthy  diet and obesity. The main causes of thrombosis include slow blood flow, damage to blood vessels and blood clotting too easily. High levels of fibrinogen (connective tissue of the blood that forms fibres), measured by a blood test, is a useful risk marker.

Lifestyle and Dietary Tips

Diet is of primary importance. Base your meals around the Mediterranean diet, which majors on low glycemic foods with plenty of antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetables, nuts, seeds, pulses, soluble fibre, monounsaturated fats and oily fish. This is the diet that has been demonstrated to reduce circulatory problems. Avoid fried, fatty foods and sugar and drink plenty of water through the day – around six to eight glasses – to keep the blood in good balance.

For healthy blood vessels, include plenty of the colourful fruits and vegetables rich in flavonoids, including rutin and diosmin which are thought to be particularly important for maintaining the health of  blood vessels. 

To support healthy blood flow, ensure your diet is rich in vitamin E (found in nuts, seeds, wholegrains and avocado) and essential omega 3 fats. One of the easiest ways to ensure sufficient intake is to take a daily supplement. Vitamin C, with its complex of bioflavonoids and anthocyanidins, which are potent anti-coagulants, make it useful for preventing inappropriate blood clotting. Ginkgo, garlic, horse chestnut, hawthorn and bilberry are also known to help maintain blood flow and strengthen and maintain flexibility within blood vessel walls. Bromelain, a protein-digesting enzyme naturally found in pineapple, is useful for breaking down excess tissue in the body.  Take between meals for maximum benefit.

Regular exercise is important and, if you are on a long flight, wear flight socks and keep moving around as much as possible. 

Just making a few changes to your diet and lifestyle can make the world of difference to your circulation - time to get moving! 

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