What causes blood to clot in the first place? When you cut a blood vessel, the platelets become sticky and bond around the damaged skin. These platelets release chemicals and proteins known as 'clotting factors'. This causes a clot to form which prevents further bleeding from the wound.
However, blood clots sometimes develop within healthy blood vessels and can lead to serious, potentially fatal, problems. There are various reasons for this, for example pre-existing genetic conditions can cause the blood to clot more readily, and certain liver disorders prevent the liver from manufacturing the chemicals used by the body to dissolve clots. Much publicity has been given in recent years to the occurrence of Deep Vein Thrombosis, where clots form, usually in the lower legs, as a result of poor circulation or lengthy periods of inactivity, such as during long haul flights.
Your risk can also increase if you are pregnant, take a birth control pill or are on HRT. Those who have recently undergone surgery, have had heart attacks, cancer or are obese are also at greater risk.
Drugs are available to break down and dissolve blood clots, but prevention is obviously better than cure.
If you are going on a long-haul flight, it is advisable to steer clear of alcohol and tobacco, to increase your intake of water and try to get up and walk around every so often. You should also try not to cross your legs as this restricts blood flow in the lower legs, and it may be worthwhile wearing support stockings. It should be remembered, though, that you don't have to be on a long-haul flight to suffer from DVT. DVT can be caused by long periods of inactivity, so sitting down in front of the TV for too long can have the same outcome.
The chemical Capsaicin, contained within chilli peppers, has been shown to help prevent the formation of blood clots as it speeds up blood circulation. It is this chemical that gives the chilli its heat and it has the effect of increasing metabolic rate which helps maintain a healthy heart and can also help with natural weight loss.
Garlic is an effective blood thinner that may prevent clotting. Garlic is a natural antibiotic and reduces cholesterol.
Similarly, ginger is also thought be a natural preventor of blood clots.
A Japanese food called natto, made from soybeans, contains Nattokinase. Nattokinase has been proven to prevent and dissolve blood clots. Nattokinase is available in capsule form from health food shops. Cod liver oil is also believed to prevent blood clots.
Finally, hawthorn is a well-known natural remedy for high blood pressure as it dilates the blood vessels, boosting the heart's efficiency and helping circulation.