Blood clots form for a number of reasons: a surgical procedure, obesity, a medical condition, or an injury. Blood thinning and anticoagulation medications are commonly prescribed to prevent blood clots for individuals at risk.
In addition to medication, a number of foods prove beneficial in preventing the development of blood clots.Blood clots are commonly formed as a normal process in the body known as coagulation. In some cases, blood clotting is essential to prevent excessive bleeding, to promote healing, and reduce the risk of infection. In other cases, a blood clot can be deadly.
A number of conditions increase the risk of developing a life-threatening blood clot, such as higher ratios of “bad” cholesterol than “good” cholesterol. High levels of triglycerides (a type of fat found in the blood) also increase risk of blood clot formation.
Higher than normal levels of bad cholesterol causes atherosclerosis or buildup of plaque inside artery walls. Plaque buildup narrows blood vessels, causing blood flow to slow down (much as a closed lane on a freeway), increasing the risk of developing a blood clot. A blood clot that breaks off and floats through the bloodstream can easily block an artery or cause a stroke, heart attack, or a pulmonary embolism (PE).
How can food prevent a blood clot?
A nutritious and well-balanced diet containing a variety of phytochemicals is the first step toward promoting circulation and arterial and venous blood flow. Phytochemicals are physiologically active compounds found in many plants. While not generally considered essential nutrients, they have shown benefits in reducing potential for heart disease and cancer.
Foods containing flavonoids and phenols may prove beneficial in clot prevention. Flavonoids reduce plaque buildup in arteries, improve cholesterol levels, act as antioxidants, and decrease inflammation. Foods and beverages containing flavonoids and phenols include:
- fruits (grapes, cherries, apples, prunes, pears, citrus)
- whole grains
- black or green tea
- red wine
Phytoestrogens such as legumes and soy products protect against heart disease by decreasing levels of bad cholesterol and increasing levels of good cholesterol.
Organosulfur compounds such as leeks, onions, and garlic protect the heart because they reduce production of cholesterol in the liver.
Hydration is also an essential component of adequate circulation. Dehydration causes the blood to thicken, increasing risk of poor circulation and development of a blood clot.
Talk to your doctor or a nutritionist to ensure that your diet is protecting rather than harming you.