Everyone knows that blood is a liquid substance that fills the vessels of our organisms. But sometimes you can hear such a seemingly strange phrase as “thick blood”. What does it mean? Some time ago, in the post-Soviet countries, it was very fashionable to “treat” blood clots with leeches. At the same time, such patients often did not understand what thick blood really is, whether such a condition is dangerous and how to treat it correctly. Many misconceptions about this issue are common in our time.
What is thick blood
What is commonly called thick blood in simple language is known to specialists as the syndrome of increased blood viscosity or hypercoagulation syndrome. Such a condition in medicine is considered as a deviation from the norm, which can be facilitated by various factors. But in order to perfectly understand what hypercoagulation syndrome is, it is necessary to have an idea of the composition of the blood.
So, blood consists of the following components:
- cellular part (erythrocytes, platelets, leukocytes);
- non–cellular part (plasma, it is also a liquid compound);
- ions of macro- and microelements, hormones, enzymes and other substances that the blood carries through the body.
Each of these components is vital for humans. But it is equally important that all the components of the blood maintain a certain balance. And such a characteristic as blood viscosity is nothing more than the ratio between plasma and cell mass. If this balance is disturbed, the blood becomes either too liquid or thickens. For example, when the body lacks red blood cells (red blood cells), they talk about anemia (previously the term “anemia” was used), because the blood becomes unnaturally liquid. The opposite effect occurs when there are too many red blood cells. But not only this is the cause of blood clots.
Thick blood causes
If we speak the language of specialists, then blood thickening leads to a deterioration of its rheological properties. That is, the blood flows slower and harder. It can become thicker for various reasons. As a rule, this condition is accompanied by:
- violation of hematocrit;
- increased hemoglobin;
- an increase in the number of red blood cells;
- decreased elasticity of red blood cells and their deformation;
- aggregation (gluing) of erythrocytes;
- acceleration of blood clotting (due to an increase in the amount of fibrinogen);
- an increase in the number of paraproteins (specific proteins that appear in plasma with myeloma).
Common causes of blood clots:
- Coagulopathy. This is a group of diseases in which there is a violation of blood clotting. These include autoimmune, genetic and coagulopathies of toxic origin.
- Liver diseases. The liver is involved in the production of proteins responsible for blood clotting. And some diseases can contribute to an increase or decrease in the synthesis of these substances, which affects the viscosity of the blood.
- Oncological diseases. Malignant blood diseases cause an imbalance between plasma and the cellular component of blood.
- Dehydration. There can be many reasons leading to dehydration of the body. The most banal is insufficient water consumption. Also, diarrhea, severe and prolonged vomiting, taking diuretics, poor absorption of water by the body lead to dehydration. But regardless of the reason, the result is always the same – the substance in the vessels becomes thicker.
What contributes to thick blood
The syndrome of increased blood viscosity can manifest itself as a hereditary genetic disease. As a rule, such people have a tendency to more active thrombosis. More often, hypercoagulation syndrome is secondary, that is, it develops under the influence of external or internal factors.
- Aging. With age, most people’s vessels become more rigid and calcified, which impairs the movement of blood through them. Upon reaching the age of 50, it is recommended to monitor the rheology of the blood, and for this purpose drugs are prescribed to maintain its fluidity.
- Overweight. Obesity is accompanied by a violation of metabolic processes in the body, because of which the blood can become more viscous, and atherosclerotic changes are observed in the vessels.
- High cholesterol. Lipoproteins always increase the proportion of the thick component.
- Smoking. The composition of cigarette smoke contains substances that increase the risk of thrombosis and affect the density of the substance in the vessels.
- Alcohol abuse. Alcoholic beverages contribute to rapid and severe dehydration of the body. Scientists have calculated that the ratio of alcohol consumed and the liquid he removed from the body is equal to 1 : 4. Therefore, if the hydrobalance is not restored in time, the proportion of the liquid part in the vessels decreases.
- Bed rest for a long time. Postoperative, as well as some health problems can force a person to observe bed rest. Over time, lack of mobility leads to impaired blood flow and stagnation of blood, which eventually causes it to thicken.
- Severe hypothermia or burns. Extreme temperature effects lead to severe stress, dehydration of the body, impaired hematopoiesis, which also increases the risk of hypercoagulation syndrome.
- Organ transplantation, vascular surgery or injury, the installation of implants (valves, dialysis shunts, venous catheters, etc.). Any impact on the heart or vascular walls leads to the formation of irregularities, and this increases the risk of increased blood clots.
- Inflammation. Any inflammatory process, especially if it is chronic, provokes an increase in the number of white blood cells, fibrinogen, proteins and cholesterol. When there are a lot of these components, the blood becomes viscous.
- Physical inactivity. This term experts call a sedentary lifestyle. The causes of thickening in sedentary people are primarily associated with impaired blood flow in the vessels.
- Taking hormonal contraceptives. Hormone-based drugs often lead to increased thrombosis, which changes the density of the substance in the vessels.
- Pregnancy. As the fetus matures, the uterus increases in size and squeezes the vessels of the pelvis. This leads to stagnation of blood and excessive formation of blood clots.
- Poisoning with toxins. Poor ecology, eating food contaminated with heavy metals, and radiation can also contribute to hyperviscous syndrome.
- Microorganisms. Most diseases caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi and some parasites are accompanied by fever and accumulation of toxic substances in the body. And this is another factor that causes the thickening of fluid in the veins. In this case, the degree of thickening depends on the nature and intensity of exposure to the toxin or parasite.
- Stress. During stress, the body releases hormones that cause vasoconstriction, which slows down blood circulation. If the stress condition is chronic, the blood tends to clot.
Who is at risk
Any of the above factors can cause blood clots. But also people suffering from such diseases fall into the high-risk group:
- cirrhosis of the liver;
- food toxicoinfection;
- varicose veins;
- myocardial infarction;
- atrial fibrillation;
- heart failure;
- antiphospholipid antibody syndrome;
- amyloid dystrophy;
- bone marrow cancer;
- adrenal dysfunction.
The development of hypercoagulation syndrome is facilitated by long-term use of diuretics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, as well as drugs containing estrogen or phytoestrogen.
What is the danger of blood clot
Blood viscosity often increases in pregnant women. In this case, this process plays a natural role of protection against possible bleeding and miscarriage. Also, the fluid in the vessels of women becomes thicker immediately before childbirth. This is how nature protects the expectant mother from severe blood loss. But excessive thickening during pregnancy can be dangerous both for a woman (promotes thrombosis, thrombophilia, varicose veins, leukemia) and for the fetus (the vascular bed is damaged).
As for newborns, their blood is much thicker than that of adults. But it shouldn’t bother. The baby needs time to adjust to life in a new environment. In the first hours after birth, hemoglobin in the baby’s body can reach 200 g/l. But in the first few days of life, these numbers will begin to decline. Almost half of the hemoglobin will be destroyed in the first day and the blood density of the baby will decrease.
Another thing is adults, whose blood has become thick for various reasons. They should not expect that the indicators will return to normal on their own. This condition can be dangerous to health.
Thickening is often accompanied by increased formation of blood clots, which can clog blood vessels, preventing normal blood flow. If a blood clot clogs a vessel in the heart or brain, a heart attack or stroke may occur, possibly with a fatal outcome.
If the substance has become viscous, but the number of platelets has decreased, this condition leads to circulatory disorders in the body and increases the risk of bleeding. In some cases, hypercoagulation syndrome with a reduced platelet count is a symptom of cancer.
If the increased viscosity is not treated, then this condition can provoke hyperosmolar coma and intracerebral bleeding, which has a high risk of death.
How to determine the density of blood
To measure the thickening, specialists use a viscometer device. It measures the speed of movement of the substance in the vessels, and then compares this indicator with the speed of movement of distilled water. For measurement, blood and water are taken in the same quantities at the same temperature.
It is considered normal if blood flows 4-5 times slower than water, and its relative density (depends on the number of red blood cells) remains within 1,050-1,064 g/ cm3. This value determines the amount of salts, proteins and shaped elements in the plasma.
Hematocrit (the volume of red blood cells in 1 liter of blood) differs depending on gender and age. For women, 37-47% is considered the norm, for men – 40-54%, for newborns – about 20% more than in adults, and 10% more than in older children.
As for the laboratory viscosity parameters themselves, the norm is from 4 to 5.5. This parameter directly depends on the number of red blood cells in the plasma: the more of them, the stronger the viscosity.
In addition to the viscometer, immunoelectrophoresis (determines which proteins are in the plasma) and immunochemical examination (counts the number of proteins) are also used to diagnose blood thickening.
External signs of blood thickening
The most accurate indicators of this condition can be determined exclusively by laboratory analysis. Nevertheless, there are a huge number of signs that may indirectly indicate that the fluid in the vessels flows more slowly.
People with increased blood viscosity may have the following symptoms:
- aching headaches;
- pre – fainting condition;
- dizziness with loss of coordination;
- rapid fatigue;
- blood flows unnaturally slowly in the places of cuts;
- muscle weakness;
- heaviness and pain in the legs;
- sensation of “goosebumps”, numbness, burning, tingling in the legs and arms (paresthesia);
- hypersensitivity to low temperatures;
- dry skin;
- cyanosis (cyanosis) of certain areas of the skin, mucous membranes of the mouth and eyelids;
- increased anxiety;
- sleep disorders;
- propensity to depressive states;
Hyperviscous syndrome often occurs in parallel with chronic fatigue, candidiasis or irritable bowel syndrome.
How to treat
If there are signs indicating a possible thickening, it is necessary to consult a therapist. In such cases, the patient is advised to first pass a laboratory analysis, after which, if necessary, consult a hematologist, endocrinologist, hepatologist or other narrow-profile specialist. Only after finding out the causes of the disease, the patient is prescribed a treatment program for blood thinning.
Blood Thinning Products
In traditional medicine, heparin or aspirin is usually used. But it has long been known that acetylsalicylic acid brings not only benefits to the body, but also harm. Most of all, the stomach “gets” from aspirin: after a long course of treatment, gastritis may begin or even ulcers open. Therefore, to dilute the fluid in the vessels, phytotherapists and traditional medicine advise using natural sources of aspirin. For example, a decoction of black currant and raspberry leaves.
If a laboratory test indicates blood clotting, you should reconsider your diet. Such people should first of all limit the use of foods rich in vitamin K: spinach, lettuce and other greens. But fatty sea fish, on the contrary, is useful to eat as often as possible. The fish oil and Omega-3 acids contained in it contribute to the resorption of blood clots and sclerotic plaques, which makes the substance in the vessels more liquid.
Also, with hypercoagulation syndrome, it is useful to eat foods with iodine, especially seaweed. This mineral also helps to reduce viscosity, but in addition, it also strengthens blood vessels. Very useful taurine contained in sea fish, seafood, walnuts and almonds. It dilutes the fluid in the vessels and normalizes its pressure.
Other useful products: garlic; bell pepper; chili pepper; tomatoes; melon; grapefruit; orange; cherry; cherry; sprouted wheat; ginkgo biloba; sweet clover; mulberry root; dry red wine; cinnamon; ginger.
If the patient is already taking special medications against the disease, then the products mentioned above should be used with extreme caution.
Thick blood can cause various disorders in the body, many of which are fraught with death. Therefore, at the first alarming symptoms, you should consult a doctor and undergo an examination.