British Heart Foundation: Understanding blood clots
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Although blood clots are crucial for preventing excessive bleeding when you get injured, the gel-like clumps sometimes form without a good reason. If this type of clot doesn’t dissolve, it could be detrimental to your health. Worryingly, your food and drink choices could play a role in this process.
From heart attack to stroke, a blood clot that got stuck in a narrow passageway when moving through your bloodstream can trigger life-threatening medical emergencies.
Due to the harmful nature of clots, it’s crucial to minimise the risk of developing them.
Apart from your body’s natural response to bleeding, blood clots can also form as a response to certain drinks, including alcohol.
While the majority of people enjoy a glass of wine or a pint of beer from time to time, American Addiction Centers warn that having more than two servings of alcohol a day could boost your risk of dangerous clots.
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According to Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC) one serving of alcohol is defined as:
- 12 ounces of beer, which is about one bottle
- 5 ounces of wine, or a small glass
- 1.5 ounces of hard alcohol, or a single shot glass.
American Addiction Centers explain that alcohol “increases” blood clotting problems through several mechanisms, with one of them being the rise of platelets in your blood.
Having too much of the popular drink boosts the number of blood platelets.
This increase makes the large cells more likely to form a blood clot randomly.
The organisation adds: “Alcohol also activates platelets, meaning they are more likely to begin forming clots.
“Long-term, excessive drinking causes long-term, consistent platelet activation.”
However, this isn’t the only mechanism that can drive up blood clot formation linked to the beverage.
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For example, alcohol can also lead to liver damage which consequently hampers your body’s ability to produce proteins that regulate blood clotting.
Alcohol can lead to weight gain as well which puts more lipids in your blood, increasing your risk of clotting. And the list just goes on.
Despite these dangerous mechanisms, the organisation notes that alcohol could offer some benefits for people with a family history of clots or heart disease as long as you stick to one serving as this may slightly thin your blood.
However, it concludes that if you already suffer from blood clots, then alcohol should be completely out of question for you.
How to spot a blood clot?
As blood clots can stir up life-threatening problems if not treated quickly, being able to identify the culprit promptly is essential.
According to the NHS, symptoms of a clot include:
- Throbbing or cramping pain, swelling, redness and warmth in a leg or arm
- Sudden breathlessness, sharp chest pain (may be worse when you breathe in) and a cough or coughing up blood.
The health service advises calling 111 if you think you might have a blood clot.
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