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Jan 23rd 2024

Is Your Blood Too Sticky?

Millions of Americans, especially older Americans, are on drugs called blood-thinners, usually the drug Coumadin (warfarin). Many more take a daily aspirin to thin their blood.

Although these drugs are called blood thinners, what they actually do is make blood platelets less sticky and apt to form clots. Since sticky blood platelets and clots are a major factor in increasing blood viscosity, these drugs have the effect of thinning the blood.

What’s wrong with thick, sticky blood? Is your blood too sticky? And if so, are drugs the answer, or are there more natural alternatives?

Problems with Sticky Blood

Clotting is crucial to survival. Without good clotting ability, a small cut could lead to massive blood loss, and even death. However blood that clots too easily or fails to break down clots that are no longer useful is equally life-threatening: an undesirable clot that blocks an artery can cause a fatal heart attack or stroke. While some people suffer from genetic clotting defects that make them easy bleeders, most of us tend to develop stickier blood as we age.

Thick, sticky blood slows down circulation, forcing the heart to work harder. Also, when blood travels more slowly, it becomes less efficient at delivering nutrients and oxygen to the body’s tissues, and at removing carbon dioxide waste. Very thick blood can have trouble even getting into the tiny capillaries where the transfer of nutrients and waste occurs.

Thicker blood is also abrasive and damages blood vessel walls, particularly in the arteries. Ordinarily the blood vessel lining, called the endothelium, is smooth. Any damage that makes the endothelium rough initiates an inflammatory repair process that stimulates clot formation, adding new clotting factors to the blood and thickening it all the more.

Repair clots that form along an artery wall lead to plaque and atherosclerosis. Over time, atherosclerotic plaque builds up, thickens and stiffens the artery wall. The blood’s passageway through the artery narrows and at the same time the artery loses pumping resiliency. This increases blood pressure and the likelihood of developing a blood clot that completely blocks the artery, causing a “cardiovascular event” like a heart attack or stroke.

It’s not surprising that thick, sticky blood is considered a major contributor to heart disease. However, it is implicated in many other diseases as well, including cancer, cognitive dysfunction and dementia, diabetes and diabetic complications, preeclampsia and other reproductive issues, and migraine headaches.

Is Your Blood Too Sticky?

How can you tell if your blood is too sticky? Two markers of coagulation (clot formation) that you can get tested are platelet aggregation and fibrinogen levels.

Platelet Aggregation. Platelets are particles found in blood. Their only function is to participate in clotting, and the first phase of clotting happens when they become sticky and bind to each other (aggregate) to form a soft temporary platelet plug. A blood test called a platelet aggregation assay test measures how well your platelets come together and adhere to each other. Your “number” should be towards the middle of the test’s reference range.

Fibrinogen. Fibrinogen is a protein found in the blood. It is made in the liver in response to inflammation in the body. During clotting it is converted into a fibrous gel called fibrin. Thin threads of fibrin wrap around the platelet plug as well as red blood cells and other materials like calcium and iron to bind them all together into the final blood clot. Fibrinogen levels can also be tested. Here again, aim for the middle of the conventional reference range. In addition to being a marker for coagulation and inflammation, a 1998 study found high fibrinogen levels were a more powerful predictor of coronary artery disease than high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, elevated cholesterol, obesity or a sedentary lifestyle.

Problems with Blood-thinning Drugs

Coumadin is a very powerful drug that can easily cause too much bleeding. In fact before it became a drug it was used as a rat poison; it killed rats by causing them to bleed to death. Anyone on Coumadin must be monitored closely for potentially serious bleeding problems, including brain hemorrhage and internal bleeding from falls. Also, as shown in a 2005 study published in the American Journal of Cardiology, vitamin K antagonists like Coumadin, which work by interfering with vitamin K’s role in clotting, also interfere with vitamin K’s important role in moving calcium to bones and away from soft tissues, including heart valves. Long-term use of Coumadin increases your risk of osteoporosis and calcifications in the heart.

Aspirin is a weaker blood thinner, which works by inhibiting inflammation and platelet aggregation. However even baby aspirin can cause ulcers, ulcer-like abdominal pain, intestinal bleeding, stomach problems, and increased risk for macular degeneration.

If you are currently taking blood thinners and want to replace them with a more natural approach, you must work with a knowledgeable healthcare professional and proceed cautiously.

A Natural Approach to Thinning the Blood

Both inflammation and free radicals stimulate platelet aggregation and the production of fibrinogen, so everything you’ve learned about living an anti-inflammatory lifestyle and getting plenty of antioxidants can be put to use here. Vitamin A/beta carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E, and formulas like Age Defense are particularly recommended.

Fish oil makes platelets slippery, and high-doses (2-6 grams daily) are used therapeutically to reduce fibrinogen. Choosing the right oils is critical, as is avoiding sugar and other high-glycemic foods. High blood sugar promotes clots and inhibits the breakdown of clots.

Adequate levels of magnesium and the B vitamins that prevent homocysteine—folic acid, B6 and B12—play important roles in inhibiting hypercoagulation (or too much coagulation).

Moderate alcohol consumption has a beneficial anticoagulant effect, especially red wine, which contains many helpful polyphenols. Polyphenols like quercitin and curcumin, and those found in grapes, olive oil, garlic, dark chocolate, green and white tea, and Age Defense inhibit both platelet aggregation and fibrinogen synthesis. High-dose curcumin has been used to reduce high fibrinogen levels quickly.

Enzymes like bromelain, papain and especially nattokinase taken between meals are very effective at breaking down fibrin, which breaks down clots and thins the blood.

Some health practitioners recommend ginkgo biloba for all patients over the age of 50 for its positive effects on circulation and for keeping the blood thin. In his December 2011 Blaylock Wellness Report, Dr. Russell Blaylock wrote that taking 250 mg per day has the equivalent anti-coagulant effect of a daily aspirin. Ginkgo biloba also improves oxygen delivery and energy production by the heart.

Patients taking blood-thinning drugs are often advised to avoid anticoagulant supplements for fear the blood will become too thin. But given that drugs have negative side effects, while supplements have beneficial ones, it would seem wiser for you and your health practitioner to carefully add supplements while reducing drug dosages.

Exercise is another factor that impacts platelet aggregation and fibrinogen levels as well as overall heart health. A 1993 review of studies done to date concluded that “regular exercise is the most practicable approach known to date to lower plasma fibrinogen levels.” While jumping in to strenuous exercise too abruptly can be dangerous for someone with heart problems, regular, moderate aerobic exercise is good for the heart and the blood.

Finally, toxins, pathogens (like viruses, bacteria, yeasts and fungi), low levels of the hormone DHEA, abdominal obesity, Syndrome X, and diabetes and other chronic degenerative disease all encourage inflammation and clot formation in the blood.

If you are middle-aged or older, it would be wise to monitor your blood for stickiness. Measuring platelet aggregation and fibrinogen levels and taking appropriate steps to keep them in a healthy range is one of the most effective things you can do to prevent cardiovascular problems down the road or reverse already existing heart disease.


  1.  Woodward M. Fibrinogen as a risk factor for coronary heart disease and mortality in middle-aged men and women
  2. The Scottish Heart Health Study. European Heart Journal. 1998;19:55–62
  3. Koos R. Relation of oral anticoagulation to cardiac valvular and coronary calcium assessed by multislice spiral computed tomography. American Journal of Cardiology. September 2005;96(6):747-749.
  4. Bordia AK. The effect of vitamin C on blood lipids, fibrinolytic activity and platelet adhesiveness in patients with coronary artery disease. Atherosclerosis. February 1980;35(2):181-187.
  5. Ernst E. Regular exercise reduces fibrinogen levels: a review of longitudinal studies. British Journal of Sports Medicine. September 1993;27(3):175-176.




Information contained in NewsClips articles should not be construed as personal medical advice or instruction. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.