Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is currently being hospitalized because doctors found a potentially fatal blood clot in her skull. She’s being treated with blood thinners and is expected to make a full recovery.
The body has a love-hate relationship with blood clots. They keep you from bleeding too long, but they can be dangerous if they form in the wrong locations. In fact, Clinton was lucky that doctors found her rare clot, also known as a central venous thrombus, as it had the potential of backing up vital blood flow in the brain, like a car accident on the highway blocks traffic. This blocked blood flow could trigger a life-threatening brain hemorrhage or stroke.
A blood clot only needs to travel a short distance to change your life forever. Every year, 60,000 people die from pulmonary embolism, when a blood clot that travels from one’s legs, also known as deep vein thrombosis, to the lungs. A blood clot can trigger a potentially fatal heart attack or stroke. Sometimes, a deadly clot doesn’t have to travel at all. It can clog the long system of pipes that make up your circulatory system – sometimes in deadly locations.
A blood clot, also known as a thrombus, is formed when particles in your blood combine to form a solid piece of matter. A blood clot usually consists of platelets, fibrin and other components. They usually form for your benefit, to stop bleeding after a cut or scrape. However, blood clots can form in situations that don’t involve a cut at all. Long periods of inactivity or damage to an arterial wall can also form a clot. An embolus is a traveling, broken-off piece of a thrombus. As it travels, it eventually degrades. However, if it travels through a more narrow passageway, and gets stuck, the consequences can be deadly.
While Clinton’s clot threatened her brain, a blood clot can threaten any part of your body: your heart, lungs, digestive system. Hence, it’s important for you to inform yourself of this threat and work to lower your risk of dying from this silent killer:
● Stay hydrated, especially when sick: Doctors believe Clinton’s blood clot arose because she was severely dehydrated. Don’t allow yourself to make that same mistake by drinking at least eight glasses of water or juice per day – especially when you’re sick. Your body loses a lot of water through vomiting, sweat or diarrhea while you’re sick, and it’s up to you to replenish your body’s supply.
● Get examined, especially if you injure your head: This applies especially to the elderly, but also to young athletes. Doctors believe the clot arose from a concussion Clinton recently suffered. While Clinton’s condition is rare, a more common danger are hemorrhages that arise when blood vessels are inadvertently torn during head trauma or car accidents. See a doctor if you feel worsening headaches, if you’re vomiting, if you feel confused or disoriented, or if you lost consciousness right after experiencing trauma to the head. It could save your life.
● Stay active, especially during flights or long drives: A much more common place for blood clots to form is in the legs – and they are just as deadly. That clot, also known as a deep venous thrombus, can travel to your lungs and cause a deadly pulmonary embolism. Try to walk as frequently as possible if you normally sit for long periods of time at work. On long flights or drives, try to move your legs by walking as frequently as possible. You can also wear compression stockings, which reduce your risk of thrombus formation.
● Keep your cholesterol down: Some dangerous blockages in your blood vessels aren’t clots, but cholesterol-filled plaques that can increase turbulence, halt the flow of blood, or trigger a blood clot. This is how heart attacks happen – remember Rosie O’Donnell’s 90% blockage of an important blood vessel called “the widowmaker”? Knowing your cholesterol levels is vital to your health. Get it checked and if it’s too high, work on lowering it by changing your diet, exercising, and possibly taking cholesterol-lowering medication.