British Heart Foundation: Understanding blood clots
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Blood clots form in response to injury. They stop the body from bleeding out. However, not all blood clots are to be welcomed. When blood clots form without good reason in one or more of the deep veins in the body, they can prove life-threatening. This process is known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Worryingly, what you put into your body can spur on DVT.
According to Professor Mark Whiteley, Consultant Venous Surgeon and Consultant Phlebologist specialising in varicose veins, alcohol is one of the worst culprits.
He explained: “Not only will the alcohol cause dehydration but it will also act as a diuretic.
“This means that although fluid is being taken in, more is being passed out in the form of urine and this heightens the risk of a clot forming.”
According to the professor, the same applies for caffeine so balance alcohol, tea and coffee with water or fruit juice to keep hydrated.
Indeed, this advice is echoed by the NHS, which warns against drinking too much tea, alcohol and coffee.
According to the health body, these drinks can increase risk of a pulmonary embolism.
This is where a blood clot gets stuck in an artery in the lung, blocking blood flow to part of the lung.
However, the association between caffeine-based drinks and blood clot risk is far from conclusive.
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In fact, a study published in the Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis actually found moderate coffee consumption reduced the risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE).
VTE is a condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein.
Researchers investigated the association between coffee consumption and the risk of incident VTE in a general population.
Information about coffee consumption habits was obtained with a self-administered questionnaire in 26,755 subjects.
After the researchers performed their analysis, daily consumption of three to four cups was borderline associated and a daily consumption of five to six cups was significantly associated with reduced risk of VTE as compared with coffee abstainers.
The study adjusted for age, sex, body mass index (BMI), smoking status, physical activity, diabetes, history of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
“Our findings suggest a possible U-shaped relationship between coffee consumption and VTE, and that moderate coffee consumption may be associated with a reduced risk of VTE,” the researchers concluded.
“However, more studies are needed to establish whether moderate coffee consumption is inversely associated with the risk of VTE.”
It seems, then, that moderate caffeine intake should be safe for most people. But more research is needed.
Other risk factors
According to the NHS, blood clots are rare in young, healthy people.
You’re more likely to get them if you:
- Are staying in or recently left hospital – especially if you cannot move around much (like after an operation)
- Are overweight
- Are using combined hormonal contraception such as the combined pill, contraceptive patch or vaginal ring
- Have had a blood clot before
- Are pregnant or have just had a baby
- Have an inflammatory condition such as Crohn’s disease or rheumatoid arthritis.
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