Obesity can cause blood clots and is a well-known risk factor for clots in deep veins and lungs. A sedentary lifestyle is a contributing factor. And obese patients are at greater risk for deadly clots after surgery while they are immobile. Read: 10 obesity related illnesses
What Are Blood Clots?
Blood clots are normally useful. Blood clots help the body repair injured blood vessels by sending platelets to the injured area where they form a plug. The platelets release chemicals that begin the clotting while fibrin is being formed. Fibrin is a protein that forms a mesh that makes up the final blood clot.
Serious problems can occur if the blood stops moving.
Obesity Blood Clot Risk
Obesity is a risk factor for blood clots in deep veins and for pulmonary embolism. Obese people are more likely to have a sedentary lifestyle, which leads to problems with their circulation. Pulmonary embolism is a clot in the blood vessels of the lungs that can cause sudden death. Blood clots in the deep veins are generally in the legs. Together, the two conditions are called venous thromboembolism (VTE).
Blood clots in veins: Obesity further increases the risk for chronic vein disease, the damage to vein valves that is caused by blood clots. This damage causes blood to pool in the legs because not enough blood is pumped to the heart. Vein disease also contributes to skin changes and ulcers on the legs. One study of patients with chronic vein disease found that the more a person weighed the more severe the disease was.
Inflammation and blood clotting: Obesity is also associated to a constant low-grade inflammation which may cause blood to be more susceptible to clotting.
Leptin-caused blood clotting: Leptin is a hormone produced by fat cells that helps regulate body weight. When leptin levels rise, our brains tell us to stop eating. If a person is obese, this regulatory system fails. Because obese and overweight people have a greater number of leptin-producing fat cells, leptin levels increase with every added pound. When leptin levels become high, obese people resist signals from the brain. This, in turn, makes them more vulnerable to leptin-caused blood clotting. Read: Belly Fat More Dangerous than Obesity
Blood clots in an artery: Arterial blood clots occur if plaque forms along the lining of the artery and narrows the vessel. The result can be heart attack or stroke. Read: 10 weight related illnesses Clots in the heart in the upper chamber if the heart does not beat properly. The blood stagnates and forms small blood clots.
Decreased blood flow can also contribute to clots.
Increased Blood Clot Risk after Surgery
When a person is immobilized and muscles no longer push blood to the heart then blood clots can form in the veins. Clots are more likely to form in slow moving blood and can lead to deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism. After my gastric bypass surgery, and after my body lift, while I was immobilized in the hospital, compression stockings were used to create a pulsing pressure that pushed blood through my veins.
Blood clots are a rare life-threatening complication of surgery including bariatric surgery and plastic surgery. Overweight or obese middle-aged women are at higher risk for blood clotting after surgery, according to study findings. Hospitals give patients blood–thinning shots (heparin) before and after surgery, and use special compression stockings, to prevent this complication. However, such measures do not completely eliminate the risk of blood clots and pulmonary embolus.
In good health,
Photo: David Wolfe