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Cold weather could cause harmful blood clots – how to protect yourself

British Heart Foundation: Understanding blood clots

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Blood clots can sometimes crop up with good intentions and try to stop bleeding. However, gel-like clumps that develop in your veins and arteries without good reason can hike your risk of heart attacks and strokes. What’s worse, the outside temperature could play a role in this process and increase your risk.

Whether it’s hot and sunny or cold and frosty, your body fights a constant battle to keep your internal conditions “pretty much the same”, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) explains.

Fortunately, there’s a variety of reflexes that can kick in to keep your core temperature around 37.5°C.

Despite your body’s best efforts to protect you from steep temperature changes, there are still many health risks associated with cold temperatures.

Worryingly, freezing weather could also spur on harmful blood clots.

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The UKHSA states: “When we start to get cold, our blood becomes thicker, which can cause clotting. 

“Clotting can cause problems and is one of the reasons we see more heart attacks and strokes in the days following colder weather.”

Blood clots that crop up in the arteries leading to part of your heart muscle can trigger a heart attack. And the gel-like clumps that block an artery in the brain can cause a stroke.

Both of these medical emergencies can be life-threatening and require urgent medical care, according to the NHS.

In a previous interview with, Professor Mark Whiteley, leading venous surgeon and founder of The Whiteley Clinic, also warned that cold weather could be risky for your blood viscosity.

Professor Whiteley said: “Sudden changes in temperature, such as when people enter a warm, central-heated building after being out in the cold, can cause thermal stress to the body. 

“This means it must work harder to maintain a constant temperature. This thermal stress can have a direct effect on the viscosity of the blood, making it stickier and more likely to clot.”

What does the research say?

The UKHSA and the expert aren’t the only ones to highlight this risk, as research, published in the journal International Angiology, also warns that lower temperatures seem to be “significantly associated” with deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

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DVT describes a medical condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in a deep vein.

Looking at patients admitted to hospital with DVT in Shenyang, China, during a 10-year period, the findings showed that low ambient temperature was linked with DVT presentations, with the effects of cold sometimes being delayed up to one week. 

How to protect yourself

Fortunately, the health chiefs from UKHSA shared that physical activity can protect you against this risk.

UKHSA penned: “Moving around can also help as this keeps the blood flowing around the body which can prevent clotting. 

“If you’ve ever sat still for any prolonged period, you’ll know you feel the cold more acutely. 

“If you can’t move around, wiggle your toes and fingers. 

“It may not sound like much but even small measures like this can help keep you warm and well.”

The professor added that “simply wrapping up and going for a brisk walk” could also help improve your blood circulation.

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