Presse Santé

Cholesterol: how to reduce the risk of blood clots

High cholesterol and chronic inflammation can contribute to plaque buildup and narrowing of the arteries, which increases the risk of blood clots.

An important part of the evaluation of heart health is the cholesterol evaluation, which is part of your annual physical exam. High cholesterol (specifically certain levels of cholesterol in the blood, such as LDL) has been linked to cardiovascular conditions such as heart attacks and strokes, and the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that cardiovascular disease is responsible for around 32% of deaths worldwide in 2019.

What most people don’t realize is that thrombosis, a medical term for the formation of blood clots, is often the underlying cause of heart attack and stroke. A blood clot is a partially solid collection of blood that can form in your arteries or veins, blocking blood flow to that area. Depending on where the clot forms, it can lead to a heart attack, stroke, deep vein thrombosis, or pulmonary embolism.

How can high cholesterol cause blood clots?

High cholesterol is linked to blood clot formation in several ways. A specific high cholesterol level is an important risk factor for atherosclerosis, that is, the accumulation of fatty plaques on and in the walls of the arteries. Plaques are made up of cholesterol, fats, cell debris, calcium, and fibrin (which causes blood to clot). As they continue to grow, fatty plaques can narrow the arteries and limit the blood supply to vital organs. This can cause symptoms, such as angina, which is caused by reduced blood supply to the heart and often manifests as chest pain on exertion.

Reduced blood supply to the legs can also lead to leg pain on exertion, a condition known as intermittent claudication. This condition is often a symptom of peripheral arterial disease, a narrowing of the arteries in the extremities.

From cholesterol to blood clots

As for the link between high cholesterol and blood clots, the danger comes from the rupture of one of these plaques. When you have high cholesterol levels, these cholesterol particles can become lodged in the artery walls and cause damage. Plaque buildup can cause the artery walls to bulge, weakening them. More and more researchers believe that if certain cholesterol levels are elevated, they are associated with an increased risk of blood clots. The root cause could be chronic inflammation (due to unhealthy lifestyle factors and behaviors such as diet, inactivity, and stress).

If one of these plaques tears or ruptures, the fatty material it contains is exposed to the blood, triggering the formation of a clot. The clot can grow rapidly to block the artery and prevent normal blood flow. Blockage of the arteries of the heart causes a heart attack, while blockage of the arteries of the brain causes a stroke. Other data suggests that high cholesterol can also cause blood clots to form in the veins, called venous thromboembolism. Depending on where the clot forms, it can lead to deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism.

How to reduce the risk of blood clot formation?

Controlling your cholesterol is an important part of keeping your heart healthy. The first step is regular cholesterol screening. Todos los adultos deben conocer su nivel de colesterol[ysuimportanciaenrelaciónconsuriesgocardiovasculargeneralSitienecolesterolaltosumédicoamenudorecomendarácambiosenelestilodevidacomodietayejercicioparareducirsusnivelesdecolesterolylainflamaciónsistémica[etsasignificationparrapportàleurrisquecardiovasculaireglobalSivousavezuntauxdecholestérolélevévotremédecinvousrecommanderasouventdemodifiervotremodedevieparexempleenadoptantunrégimealimentaireetenfaisantdel’exerciceafinderéduirevotretauxdecholestéroletl’inflammationsystémique[ysuimportanciaenrelaciónconsuriesgocardiovasculargeneralSitienecolesterolaltosumédicoamenudorecomendarácambiosenelestilodevidacomodietayejercicioparareducirsusnivelesdecolesterolylainflamaciónsistémica[etsasignificationparrapportàleurrisquecardiovasculaireglobalSivousavezuntauxdecholestérolélevévotremédecinvousrecommanderasouventdemodifiervotremodedevieparexempleenadoptantunrégimealimentaireetenfaisantdel’exerciceafinderéduirevotretauxdecholestéroletl’inflammationsystémique

If you have high cholesterol, you also need to be very vigilant about risk factors in your life, because cholesterol is only one of the major risk factors associated with atherosclerosis. Other manageable risk factors, which are strongly related to community and lifestyle choices and behaviors, include:

– Hypertension (high blood pressure)
– smoking
– Diabetes
– Obesity

When it comes to managing your cholesterol, it’s important to be proactive because the longer you have high levels, the higher your risk of developing atherosclerosis. This process begins at a very young age. If we want to maximize the effect of the intervention, then these lifestyle changes must start very early, because by the time we reach 30 or 40, these plaques have already formed on the vessel walls. Work with your doctor to develop a plan to better control these risk factors and reduce your risk of atherosclerosis and blood clots.

* Presse Santé strives to convey health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO EVENT can the information provided replace the opinion of a health professional.

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