British Heart Foundation: Understanding blood clots
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Having risen to fame in films like Goodfellas and Jurassic Park, Jackson, now 73, has fronted health campaigns such as cancer charity One For The Boys. Back in 2015, together with the charity, the actor hoped to conquer problems with men’s health, particularly cancer. “When it comes to men, we’re literally letting ourselves die…” Jackson said in relation to the campaign. “I play golf with guys who have skin cancer, but they didn’t tell me until I saw them on the golf course with a Band-Aid on their face.” As part of the important campaign the actor gave some a rare insight into his lifestyle and the changes he has made to look after his own health.
A few years back, the star worried fans as he was drastically losing weight. But the star soon put rumours to bed, in an interview saying: “Because I was losing weight, people thought I was dying.
“They feared I had cancer, but I was just on a hardcore vegan regime.
“My doctor said it was my greatest chance of staying alive – and it worked.
“I lost weight, lowered my blood pressure, lowered my cholesterol levels and my body mass index.
“But I’m lucky. I’m forced to get a full medical before every film otherwise I can’t get insurance.
“The average man doesn’t have that luxury, so it’s important they stay vigilant.”
The star’s health changes were motivated after it was discovered he had a life-threatening blood clot near his heart, which might have proved fatal if he didn’t change his ways. But through adopting a vegan diet, Jackson was able to lose three stone in weight.
Individuals who are at high risk of getting a blood clot, may be recommended medicines by a medical professional to control the levels of their cholesterol and blood pressure. If clotting in the heart becomes too serious, it can put individuals at risk of stroke or heart attacks.
The NHS explains that a blood clot in an artery is known as arterial thrombosis, which if left untreated can become extremely serious and stop blood from reaching organs.
Even more importantly, a blood clot does not usually have any symptoms until it causes a severe problem such as a stroke or heart attack.
Sometimes arterial thrombosis can be due to a condition that makes your blood more likely to clot, such as atrial fibrillation or antiphospholipid syndrome.
The former is a heart condition that causes irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate and the latter is a disorder of the immune system, also known as Hughes syndrome.
After developing arterial thrombosis, it may need to be treated with medicine or surgery.
These treatments can include the following:
Injections of a medicine called a thrombolytic which can dissolve some blood clots
An operation to remove the clot (embolectomy)
An operation to widen the affected artery – for example, an angioplasty (where a hollow tube is placed inside the artery to hold it open)
Surgery to divert blood around the blocked artery – for example, a coronary artery bypass graft (where a blood vessel taken from another part of the body is used to bypass a blockage in the artery that supplies the heart muscle).
As well as arterial thrombosis, there are several other types of blood clot that can develop. Including deep vein thrombosis (DVT) – a blood clot in one of the deep veins in the body, usually in the leg.
An individual’s risk of developing blood clots and a build-up of fatty deposits can be increased due to the following factors:
- Getting older
- An unhealthy diet
- A lack of exercise
- Being overweight or obese
- Regularly drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
- Other health conditions, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes
- A family history of atherosclerosis
- Being of south Asian, African or African-Caribbean descent.
Therefore, in order to try and prevent blood clots, individuals are advised by medical professionals to stop smoking, eat a healthy balanced diet, exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight.
Scientific studies have looked at the benefits of a vegan diet for over 20 years, and have shown that those who eat plant-based “tend to put on less weight over time than those eating the most meat, dairy and eggs”.
Further research has also shown that following a vegan diet may reduce your risk of developing serious conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and metabolic syndrome.
However, when following a vegan diet, some products may contain “a lot of saturated fat or salt” which individuals should be aware of. Dr Gemma Newman, a senior partner at a doctors’ practice, says: “People think, ‘Oh, plant-based diet, I’m going to automatically lose weight’, and sometimes they do it solely for that purpose, which in some cases can be harmful. Weight is a hugely complex issue.
“A common trap is that rather than having dairy ice cream you might have vegan ice cream, which is not a healthy food. But having said that, there are healthier choices. Take burgers for example – a beetroot burger or bean burger is going to be healthier than a processed soy burger. But they’re probably all slightly better choices than a standard beef burger.”
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