British Heart Foundation: Understanding blood clots
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Blood clots can be dangerous if they form without good reason. Poor lifestyle decisions promote the formation of blood clots but it’s not always clear what’s meant by “unhealthy”. For example, consuming caffeine – a natural chemical found in coffee and energy drinks – can have unfavourable results.
“Drinks with caffeine can dehydrate the body leading to thicker blood that can increase the risk of clotting,” warned Doctor Monika Wassermann, MD at Boutiquetoyou.com.
As the doc explained, “dehydration influences blood components, leading to thicker and stickier blood that circulates slowly”.
Doctor Wassermann added: “The effect is mainly in the pelvic area, legs, thighs, and arms.”
Research backs up the doc’s claims. A study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found taking caffeine during a high-intensity workout can increase the coagulation factor in your blood, making it more likely to form clots.
In the study, researchers looked at 48 men, with an average age of 23, and a normal body mass index.
The participants completed two sessions, a week apart, on exercise cycles that were gradually increased in speed until participant exhaustion—making it a high-intensity workout.
They were given either a non-caffeinated placebo or a caffeinated drink beforehand, and their blood was drawn before and after, along with vital signs reporting.
They found that caffeine significantly increased the coagulation factor during exercise, meaning that the participants who had the caffeine drinks had a higher risk factor when it comes to what causes blood clots.
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However, this doesn’t mean you need to forgo caffeine altogether. “For most people, caffeine is safe, and so is exercise,” Paul Nagelkirk, PhD, the director of the Integrative Exercise Physiology Laboratory at Ball State University, told Runner’s World in 2019.
“Healthy adults who currently enjoy the benefits of caffeine as a pre-workout or pre-competition routine have little reason to worry about blood-clotting potential,” he added.
However, the study does suggest those with poor cardiovascular markers, such high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or a history of smoking, may wish to avoid caffeine surrounding their workout.
Researchers have also uncovered evidence of the contrary.
According to a research paper published in the Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis, “coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk of venous thrombosis”.
Venous thrombosis is blockage of a vein caused by a thrombus (blood clot).
The jury is still out on the link between coffee and blood clotting.
It’s important to note that there are other health risks associated with taking in large amounts of caffeine every day, including insomnia, headaches, fast heartbeat, and muscle tremors.
How to respond to a possible blood clot
Blood clots can be very serious and need to be treated quickly. Staying healthy and active can help prevent them.
Symptoms of a blood 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 NHS says: “Blood clots can be life threatening if not treated quickly.
“111 will tell you what to do. They can arrange a phone call from a nurse or doctor if you need one.”
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