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Do blood clots cause heart attacks?

Blood clots play a major role in myocardial infarction (MI), or heart attack. Over time, the

coronary arteries can develop plaques—a buildup of cholesterol, fibrous tissue, and

inflammatory cells—in a process called atherosclerosis. Smoking, high blood pressure, high

cholesterol, and diabetes are risk factors for atherosclerosis; over time, they cause injury to the

blood vessels and lead to more plaque formation. In some cases, these plaques become unstable

and fracture, triggering the body to form a blood clot at that site. The blood clot may block the

coronary artery and starve the heart muscle of oxygen and nutrients, resulting in a heart attack.

Blood clots form when blood thickens, forming a semisolid mass. They normally only form if a

blood vessel is injured, such as if there is a cut to the skin, and bleeding starts. The blood

thickens and forms a clot at the site of the cut to stop the bleeding.

cut on finger

Blood clots are the first line of defense if something damages your delicate blood vessels. If you

cut yourself from shaving, blood clots are why the bleeding usually stops after a few seconds or

minutes. The blood clot and platelets forming the clot are the “first responders” to the scene of

the injury. Blood clotting (coagulation) is an important, natural process that occurs to prevent

excessive bleeding, and normally the blood clot will naturally dissolve after the injury has


You can develop a blood clot for other reasons, such as being immobile for a long time or having

medical conditions that increase your blood clot risk. When that happens, your blood doesn’t

flow as it should.

Blood clots are made of platelets and fibrin. Platelets are small colorless fragments of cells that

your bone marrow makes. Fibrin is a blood protein. It’s sticky and may look like long strings.

Platelets and fibrin work together to seal injured areas of your blood vessels.

A blood clot may look like a clump of reddish jelly held in place with netting. A closer look at a

blood clot may show cells that look like tiny plates. These are platelets. The netting is fibrin.

Blood clots red color comes from red blood cells that are trapped in fibrin as they flow past the

injured area.

Blood clots can happen if the blood starts to clot more easily (e.g., if a person is unwell), if there

are changes to the walls of the veins (e.g., as a result of a long period of sitting), or if there are

changes in how the blood flows.

However, blood clots can also form on the inside of blood vessels that don’t have an obvious

injury, and some may not dissolve naturally. A blood clot forming inside a blood vessel is known

as a thrombus.

An immobile blood clot attached to the inside of a blood vessel is generally not harmful.

However, such a blood clot can become dangerous if it breaks free and travels through the blood

vessels, as it could become lodged and block arterial blood flow.

If a blood clot blocks arterial blood flow to the heart, it can lead to a heart attack. If it occurs in

an artery to the brain, it can cause a stroke.

How do blood clots form?

Blood clots form when blood clotting cells – known as platelets – are triggered to stick to each

other, and to diseased or damaged blood vessels. These blood clot “road blocks” are secured in

place by strands of fibrin, likened to mortar securing in place bricks (platelets) to create a solid

and secure blood clot in the blood vessel.

blood platelets

Unwanted blood clots within blood vessels (thrombosis) can form as a result of atherosclerosis.

In this slow, progressive process, atherosclerotic plaques that are made up of fat, cholesterol,

calcium and other substances build up in the walls of the arteries. Over time, these plaques

harden, narrow the opening of the arteries and restrict the blood flow. If these plaques break

open, they form a blood clot.

Atherosclerosis is the main underlying cause of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Types of blood clots

There are two main types of blood clots depending on which blood vessels are blocked.

Arterial blood clots

These are when a blood clot blocks an artery. Blood clots in the arteries can be dangerous, as the

arteries carry oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood from the heart around the body. The clots can

prevent oxygen and nutrients from reaching essential organs like the heart and the brain.

Venous blood clots

These are when a blood clot blocks a vein. Veins carry deoxygenated blood away from the

body’s organs back to the heart. A blood clot in a vein can restrict the return of blood to the

heart, resulting in serious problems.

Problems caused by blood clots

Blood clots in the heart

Blood clots in the heart can block critical blood flow and result in a heart attack (also known as a

myocardial infarction). If the blockage stops blood flow to the heart, the amount of oxygen that

the heart receives is reduced. Without oxygen, the heart muscle can start to die. The longer that

the blockage remains untreated, the greater the damage to the heart. Without treatment to restore

blood flow, the heart can be permanently damaged.

The chest pain felt in a heart attack is caused by the lack of oxygen to the heart muscle. The

damaged muscles cries its own unique “tears” called Troponins, signifying cardiac muscle

damage. Time is muscle and it is imperative to get intervention as soon as possible. First

responders typically give 325 mg aspirin to immediately prevent platelet aggregation (clumping

together to form a clot). Should you take aspirin for this reason, it is very important to to chew

the aspirin. If you swallow the pill whole, it will not dissolve and act immediately due to the

enteric coating, used to prevent stomach irritation and delay breakdown of the pill.

Blood clots in the brain

A blood clot in the brain can block the supply of oxygen-carrying blood to the brain, causing a

stroke. Brain tissue and heart muscle start dying without a constant supply of oxygen, so it is

critical to treat the stroke or heart attack as soon as possible. The longer a stroke remains

untreated, the greater the chance that brain cells will die, leaving behind permanent stroke-

related brain damage. Time is Tissue and Time is Muscle! These debilitating effects to the brain

can include weakness on one side of the body, difficulty controlling movements, personality or

behavior changes, or problems speaking and understanding.

Blood clots in the legs

A blood clot in the limbs can lead to peripheral artery disease. While PAD is not immediately

life threatening, someone with PAD has a greatly increased risk of having a heart attack or

stroke. The reduced blow flow to the limbs can also lead to the limb developing gangrene, where

it starts to decay and die. The only treatment option for gangrene is to amputate the affected limb

to prevent the gangrene from spreading further in the body.

Blood clots can also cause deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which most commonly affects major

veins in the leg. In DVT, there is the risk that a clot breaks off, travels through the blood stream,

and becomes lodged in the pulmonary artery (the main blood vessel to the lungs). This is known

as a pulmonary embolism and can be extremely dangerous. DVT can also occur in the arms,

pelvis or other large veins in the body, but this is less common.

Blood clot symptoms

The signs and symptoms of blood clots will vary depending on where the clot is located, and

they may appear similar to symptoms of other conditions. It is also possible to have a blood clot

with no apparent symptoms.

It’s important to know the signs to look out for, but only a healthcare professional can confirm

whether you have a blood clot. They will do so by looking at your symptoms and medical

history, and they may also order tests, such as an ultrasound to show an image of your blood


Signs of blood clots: how do you know if you have a blood clot in the heart?

Symptoms of blood clots in the heart can include chest pain, light-headedness, discomfort in

other areas of the upper body (such as the neck, back, jaw or arm), shortness of breath, sweating

and nausea.

Signs of blood clots: how do you know if you have a blood clot in the brain?

Symptoms of blood clots in the brain are the same as the symptoms of a stroke. These can

include numbness or weakness in the arm, face or leg (especially on one side of the body),

slurred speech or trouble speaking or understanding others, dizziness or a sudden, severe

headache, or vision problems.

Signs of blood clots: how do you know if you have a blood clot in the arm or leg?

Symptoms of blood clots in the arm or leg can range from mild to severe, depending on the size

of the clot. These can include swelling, sudden or gradual pain, tenderness or a warm sensation

in the location of the clot.

The risk of blood clots

Blood clots are common, and in general they can be harmless. The risk factors for developing a

blood clot in an artery versus a vein are different, and people may be at risk of one but not the

other. Usually there is a combination of factors that leads to a blood clot, but you are more likely

to develop a blood clot if you:

  • have other medical conditions that make clotting more likely, such as a blood disorder,

  • heart condition or diabetes

  • do not move around or are immobile for a long period of time, such as through

  • hospitalization or sitting on a long-haul flight

  • have had surgery or a major injury, especially to the legs

  • have had a blood clot before or a family history of blood clots

  • are on certain medicines that may increase your risk of clotting or that contain estrogen,

  • such as birth control and hormone replacement therapy

  • are pregnant or six weeks post-birth

  • have varicose veins

  • are over 50, as age can increase the body’s natural ability to clot.

  • **have had pharmaceutical injections making you prone to clots

Certain lifestyle factors also increase your risk of blood clots. These include:

  • being inactive in general

  • being overweight or obese

  • having high blood pressure or high cholesterol

  • smoking which causes vasoconstriction

  • being dehydrated

Preventing blood clotting

Making small adjustments to your lifestyle can help to decrease your risk of developing a blood


  • maintain a healthy weight by eating heart-healthy, nutritious food

  • keep physically active – stay motivated by choosing the best exercise for your life stage.

  • avoid long periods of inactivity or sitting by taking regular breaks to move around.

  • manage high blood pressure and control cholesterol levels and inflammation

  • stay well-hydrated, as dehydration can contribute to the development of blood clots.

  • schedule a consult with Mary Yuter, RN founder of the results-oriented cardiac wellness

To prevent blood clots from forming, a doctor may prescribe blood thinning or anticoagulation

medication to thin the blood and make it less likely to clot. You can also work with Mary to

implement a tactical nourishment strategy to mitigate clots and improve circulation as part of her

program protocols.

Blood clot treatment

How a blood clot is treated will depend on its type, its location and your overall health condition.

Medication may be prescribed to thin the blood and make it less likely to clot, preventing blood

clots from forming (anticoagulants). There is also medication available to dissolve blood clots

(thrombolytics). In some cases, surgical procedures may be necessary, such as a thromboectomy

to remove a blood clot.

You do not have to be a bystander to clot formation. You have the power to support your body to homeostasis, its natural innate state of wellness. Book your consultation with Mary today!

1 commentaire

Membre inconnu
31 janv.

Interesting...thanks for the FYI

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