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Blood clots are tangled clumps of blood cells and molecules that stick together. When the skin breaks, blood clots create a barrier to prevent blood loss and keep infections from entering your body. Clot formations also happen inside your body for several reasons, but they usually break down in the bloodstream when they are no longer necessary.

When a clot inside the blood vessels doesn't break down, it can become dangerous, possibly blocking blood flow to other areas of your body. Fortunately, preventative measures can reduce your risk of developing blood clots and improve your circulation.

Understanding Blood Clots

Thrombosis —or blood clots, can result from genetics, poor health habits, cancer, or as a side effect of an illness. Most recently, researchers found evidence that COVID-19 infections activate blood coagulation, resulting in a higher risk of thrombosis for people who catch the virus.

Symptoms of thrombosis depend on where the blockage occurs. If the blood flow to your brain is affected, you may feel weak, numb, dizzy, or confused. A clot near your heart may cause chest or arm pain and difficulty breathing.

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Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

The first step to preventing is often adjusting lifestyle factors, especially for people who have experienced thrombosis in the past. They are at a higher risk of developing another. A nutritious diet of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, reducing sodium and animal fats, can make a positive difference in blood circulation. Specifically, these food choices help keep cholesterol from accumulating on blood vessel walls. Clumps of cholesterol called plaques can break apart and cause a blood clot or damage the vessels.

Regular exercise also stimulates blood circulation and boosts your body's ability to carry excess cholesterol to your liver.

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Keep Yourself Hydrated

Dehydration occurs when the body doesn't receive enough fluids to perform everyday functions. As you lose fluids, your blood vessels narrow and the blood thickens, creating sluggish blood flow and an increased risk of developing a blood clot.

Rather than waiting to feel thirsty, dizzy, or fatigued, stay hydrated by drinking 8 to 10 8-ounce glasses of water every day. It's also wise to steer clear of energy drinks, which can elevate blood pressure and worsen dehydration.

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Drink Alcohol in Moderation

Drinking alcohol provides some health benefits, but the key to enjoying them in moderation. Consuming fewer alcoholic beverages reduces the risk of some cardiovascular diseases, including stroke caused by blood clots.

Experts recommend that women consume no more than one drink a day while men limit themselves to no more than two. When alcohol consumption increases to four or more drinks daily, the risk of a stroke from thrombosis becomes greater.

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Quit Smoking Permanently

Cigarette and tobacco smoke contains carbon monoxide, which the red blood cells carry throughout the body. Once inside your bloodstream, carbon monoxide can increase the number of cholesterol deposits in your arteries.

Over time, these plaque deposits can cause the hardening of your arteries and increase your risk of a stroke. Because the nicotine in cigarettes is so addictive, permanently quitting smoking gives smokers their best chances of limiting exposure to the toxins in cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and other tobacco products.

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Wear Compression Stockings

Compression stockings are long socks that help improve circulation to prevent blood clots. They do this by putting pressure on the lower legs to encourage blood flow to the heart. Without them, the blood could pool in the lower legs, causing a slowdown in circulation.

Compression stockings come in various sizes and tightness, from mild compression for leg swelling and discomfort to firm compression for people with a history of thrombosis. While not everyone needs compression stockings, they help many people with leg pain and circulation problems. Check with a doctor to learn if they're a good choice for you.

Woman, waste down, sitting on bed in bedroom putting on compression stockings on her legs in the morning JulieAlexK / Getty Images

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Take Precautions Before Traveling

Blood clots are more likely to happen during travel, when we're sitting in a confined space for a long period. Get your blood flowing by moving your legs frequently. Calf stretches, leg extensions, and pulling your knees toward your chest are great exercises for weary travelers.

Frequent fliers and people at greater risk of thrombosis should ask their healthcare provider about graduated compression stockings and how to use them. These are tightest at the ankles, with the pressure decreasing further up the leg.

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Visit Your Doctor Regularly

Regularly scheduled health screenings are a crucial part of preventative healthcare, especially if you have a family history of high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure—risk factors for developing blood clots. Additionally, research shows that women who have experienced trauma and symptoms of PTSD are at a greater risk for developing blood clots.

Regular screenings every two to five years are an excellent way to track blood health and stop blood clot issues before they cause damage.

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Confident clinician with medical document communicating with happy mature female patient sitting on couchette in front of him shironosov / Getty Images

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Manage Your Medications

If a routine doctor's visit reveals a developing blood clot, you may receive a prescription for anticoagulants or blood thinners. People who were hospitalized with COVID-19, one of several diseasesthat triggers clotting, may experience this problem.

However, some medications increase your risk of developing blood clots, such as estrogen-containing birth control and hormone replacement therapy, so speak with your healthcare provider about managing your risk.

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Take Ergonomics to Work

Blood clots deep in the leg veins can develop into deep vein thrombosis, which can travel into the lungs. The risk of DVT increases for people who sit at a computer for their entire workday, especially if they don't take breaks. Prevent work-induced thrombosis by moving every 30 minutes to 60 minutes to pump blood from your calf muscles.

A convertible standing desk helps encourage circulation by allowing you to alternate between standing and sitting, while adjustable chairs help maximize individual comfort. If your job requires long hours of standing, floor mats and shoe inserts can be helpful.

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.