Blood clots can kill. Know your risks and manage them.


Blood clots are no joke.

The toll is staggering: More than two million people in the US suffer serious blood clots each year, from deep vein thrombosis (DVT), pulmonary embolism (PE) or stroke.

Almost half a million of them die.

The most important way to protect yourself is to know your risks and manage them.

I had no idea I was at risk for blood clots until I had an ischemic (caused by a clot) stroke. Even as it happened, as the paramedics and the neurologist were telling I was having a stroke, I knew they were wrong:

Of course I’m not having a stroke, I wanted to tell him. Strokes are for the elderly, for smokers, for overweight couch potatoes. I’m forty-eight years old, fit, and perfectly healthy. But the words were trapped in my head.

Excerpt from Scrambing Back

I was the one who was wrong that day. I was fit, but I had several risk factors for blood clots that had never crossed my mind.

The first step in preventing blood clots is to know your risk.

Risk factors for blood clots:

  • Being over 60 years old
  • Having cancer
  • Obesity, especially with a BMI (body mass index) of 30 or more
  • Dehydration
  • Thrombophilia —any a condition that causes your blood to clot more easily than normal. Common causes of thrombophilia include:
    — genetic mutations such as Factor V Leiden, prothrombin 20210, or protein C or protein S deficiency
    — Acquired blood-clotting disorders such as antiphospholipid syndrome (APS)
    — High levels of homocysteine in the blood
  • Health problems such as heart disease, lung problems, or a serious infection
  • Having an autoimmune disease or another inflammatory condition
  • Personal history of blood clots: deep vein thrombosis (DVT),  pulmonary embolism (PE),  or stroke
  • Family history of blood clots
  • Taking birth control pills containing estrogen
  • Using hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
  • Varicose veins with phlebitis (inflammation)
  • Being pregnant or having given birth within the past 6 weeks
  • Being less mobile than normal, especially if you move around very little for more than 3 days
  • Having abdominal surgery or surgery for an inflammatory condition
  • Having any surgery that lasts more than an hour and a half, or more than an hour if it involves your legs or pelvis.

Learn more about the risk and prevention of blood clots here:

Mayo Clinic: Risk Factors for DVT  and Risk Factors for Pulmonary Embolism

Lund University: Increased risk of blood clots on the lung (PE) for patients with autoimmune diseases

Clot Connect, sponsored by the Hemophilia and Thrombosis Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Symptoms, Risk Factors and Prevention

APS Foundation of America:  Risk Factors for DVT

Prevent Assess Your DVT Risk

Coming next week on Strategies for preventing blood clots