Blood clot expert warns of surprising factor that increases your risk

While blood clots can crop up in response to bleeding and prove useful, not all clots are to be welcomed. When the gel-like clumps appear in your veins and arteries without a good reason, they can hike your risk of heart attacks and strokes. 

Worryingly, the outside temperature could play a role in this daunting process, according to an expert. Sudden changes in temperature, such as when people enter a warm, central-heated building after being out in the cold, can cause thermal stress to the body. 

This can leave your body working harder to maintain a constant temperature. The viscosity of your blood can also take a hit, becoming stickier and more likely to clot, according to Professor Mark Whiteley, Consultant Venous Surgeon and Founder of The Whiteley Clinic.

Professor Whiteley explained that your risk of heart attacks can also increase in cold weather. He told “This might be due to increased clotting in the coronary arteries, but it could also be due to the increased resistance of blood pumping around the body in cold weather when all of the arteries are narrowed to reduce heat loss from the skin, making the heart work harder. 

“Therefore, this hasn’t been shown to be definitely due to blood clotting. Interestingly, there doesn’t seem to be much difference between people with coronary heart disease exercising in normal weather or cold weather, suggesting that moderate exercise in cold weather is at least not risky and might be beneficial.”

The expert added that cold weather is also associated with a higher risk of a different type of blood clots – pulmonary embolism.

A pulmonary embolism occurs when a blood clot blocks and stops blood flow to an artery in your lung.

However, Professor Whiteley added that deep vein thrombosis, blood clots in deep veins, is most likely to strike with a drop in temperatures.

Research, published in the journal International Angiology, also warns that lower temperatures seem to be “significantly associated” with DVT.

The study looked at patients admitted to hospital with DVT in Shenyang, China, during a ten-year period.

The findings showed that low ambient temperatures were linked with DVT presentations, with the effects of cold sometimes being delayed up to one week. 

Fortunately, Professor Whiteley explained how to keep your risk of clotting in the colder months to a minimum. He said: “Clearly it is sensible to stay warm if possible. 

“Smoking should be avoided as nicotine causes spasm of the arteries and increases proteins that can increase the risk of clotting of the blood. In the long-term, smoking also damages blood vessel walls by causing inflammation.

“Exercise is always useful as good blood flow through a blood vessel both keeps the blood vessel wall healthy as well as reduces the risk of any blood clotting within the vessel.”

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