You might have heard that "you can't choose your family," and the same applies to the genes you inherit from them.
Everyone is born with two copies of the factor V — pronounced factor five — gene. This gene is responsible for aiding in normal blood clotting. But some people inherit mutated versions of this gene and develop a condition called factor V Leiden thrombophilia.
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The normal blood clotting process goes to work right away when you get a cut — platelets rush to the site to seal it, and a substance called fibrin — aided by factor V — helps the platelets to form a clot. Usually, once the clot is formed, factor V is "turned off," but not in those with factor V Leiden.
If you have this gene mutation, factor V is slow to turn off, and this can create a larger-than-needed clot, which could break off and start traveling through your body. In a worst-case scenario, it lands in your legs, leading to deep vein thrombosis, or your lungs, forming a pulmonary embolism. Fortunately, about 95 percent of people with this condition never develop a clot, according to the National Institutes of Health.
If you know you have the factor V gene mutation, you can work to make your body an inhospitable place for clots, starting with something under your control: your diet.
Foods to Eat With Factor V Leiden
No foods can change your genetics, but having the right type of diet may prevent your condition from getting worse. There is no specific "diet" for people with factor V Leiden, but there are foods that can help keep your blood and body healthy, which may reduce your risk of developing a blood clot.
The best diet to follow is one full of foods that support heart health, because these are also naturally good for your blood health.
Why? Heart-healthy foods help reduce inflammation and may help you get to a healthy weight, both of which are necessary for healthy blood, per Johns Hopkins Medicine. What's more, they can help lower blood pressure. That's important because high blood pressure can damage blood vessels, increasing blood clot risk.
1. Fruits and vegetables: Get at least five servings of fruits and veggies throughout the day, and incorporate all different kinds.
2. Lean protein: Prioritize lean proteins such as chicken, turkey and lean beef.
3. Fatty fish: Aim for two servings of fatty fish each week, such as salmon, tuna and sardines
4. Limited sodium: Get less than 2,300 mg of sodium daily, per the American Heart Association.
5. Whole grains: Choose whole grains like whole-grain bread, quinoa, farro and brown rice rather than refined grains, such as white bread, white rice, crackers and baked goods made with white flour.
6. Healthy fats: Eat healthy fats each day such as olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocado.
What About Foods With Vitamin K?
Because factor V Leiden is a blood clotting condition, you need to have a discussion with your health care team about your dietary restrictions if you are on a blood-thinning medication like warfarin.
Most notably, you will need to be aware of your vitamin K consumption. Vitamin K is necessary for making the proteins that aid in blood clotting, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The nutrient can interact with blood-thinning meds, but the idea is not to avoid foods high in vitamin K, like broccoli, kale, spinach and collard greens. (On the contrary, these are all heart-healthy foods.)
Rather, it's key to keep your intake of the nutrient consistent. If you want to increase the amount you're eating, your doctor can help you make the adjustment slowly, with appropriate adjustments to your medication.
Foods to Limit With Factor V Leiden
Foods to limit when you're following a heart-healthy diet include:
1. Added sugars in excess of 24 grams per day for people assigned female at birth and 32 grams per day for people assigned male at birth, per the American Heart Association.
2. Foods containing trans fat, including hydrogenated oils and highly processed shelf-stable food (think: packaged snacks and baked goods).
3. Foods high in saturated fat, including animal and dairy fat, coconut oil, palm oil and processed meat.
Other Risk Factors for Blood Clots
If you have factor V Leiden, there are other ways you can help reduce your risk of developing a blood clot beyond your diet.
The American Heart Association cites the following as risk factors for blood clots:
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.