Dennis Farina Died of a Blood Clot -- Should
You Be Concerned?
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July 23, 2013

By Muireann Prendergast, Contributing Columnist
[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our Editorial Board, which
Registered Nurses and Certified fitness professionals]

Yesterday, July 22, 2013 actor Dennis Farina died at age 69 of
a blood clot in his lungs. You may remember Dennis Farina,
who played the silver-haired tough guy detective on Law and
Order for _seasons.  But many of us read about Dennis Farina’s
death with more than a casual curiosity. We wondered—how
could a simple blood clot kill a still vigorous man?  He clearly
had access to the best medical care—how could something like
this happen? And, perhaps more important to you, am I at risk
for blood clots too?   What causes blood clots anyway? What
can we do to minimize our risks of developing blood clots?

What are Blood Clots and Why Do They Form?

Your blood, it won’t surprise you, is not a uniform liquid. It’s
made up of mostly water, oils, red blood cells, platelets,
proteins, and other micronutrients extracted from the foods
you eat.

A blood clot is a cluster that contains blood platelets, red blood
cells and a substance called “fibrin”. Fibrin can be thought of as
a mesh that helps to bind wounds. It is a protein that lies at the
site of wounds and helps to coagulate your blood to promote
healing.  In a sense, fibrin is the architecture on which
coagulants hang to “plug” a wound by clotting. Without fibrin,
a simple cut would make you bleed to death. Without fibrin,
you become a hemophiliac, someone who cannot stop bleeding.
So, you need some fibrin simply to stay alive.

But too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.

Excessive fibrin leads to over-coagulation  which leads to  
blood clots. A thrombosis is another name for a blood clot.
At its essence, a blood clot is a reaction to an injury. In your
body, an injury is anything that causes excess internal

We’ve written about this
internal inflammation and its role in
promoting disease before but basically, internal inflammation
lies at the core of many chronic diseases such as heart disease
and other diseases such as cancer.  

As we've said, blood clots are a reaction to inflammation. Focus
on the word “reaction”.  In fact, one of the ways we measure
the amount of inflammation in your body is by testing for a
protein called “C-reactive protein”.  These reactive processes
are the firemen, always at the ready,  that rush in to put out
the fires of inflammation in your body.

So, don’t blame blood clots for forming. They didn’t cause the
fire. They only reacted to it.

Blood clots that form in your arteries are different from blood
clots that form in your veins such as the veins of your legs.
Blood clots in your arteries are called “white clots” and are
made up of blood platelets.  These clots form when plaque
tears away from your artery walls.  To treat these, doctors use
anti-platelet drugs.

Blood clots in your veins, such as the veins in your legs are
called “red clots” and are made up mostly of red blood cells. To
treat this type of deep vein thrombosis, doctors use anti-
coagulant drugs.

What Puts You At Risk for Blood Clots

You are at higher risk for blood clots if your blood type is not
“O”, if your family is predisposed to blood clots, if you are
pregnant, if you’re taking birth control pills, if you are older
than 50, if you are obese –as many of us are – if you have had
surgery or if you have cancer or if you are sedentary or
stationary for long periods of time.

What Can You Do to Lower Your Risk of Blood Clots?

1.        Lose Weight.  First and foremost, you have to stay as
close as possible to your ideal, healthy body weight. Increasing
obesity is believed to be the main reason that thrombosis has
become a leading killer in the Western industrialized world.  
Being overweight –meaning your
BMI is over 30 --- doubles
your risk of thrombosis, according to a 2011 study led by Dr.
Allman-Farinelli  of the School of Molecular Bioscience at the
University of Sydney in Australia. This study discovered that the
blood of obese people contains less of the ant-coagulant
compounds that prevent blood clots. But you can reverse the

Specifically, losing weight changes your blood profile, reducing
the concentration of both  coagulation factors and plasminogen
activator inhibitor-1, one of the compounds that triggers the
coagulating blood clotting cascade of events.

Americans are overweight. Over 66% of us weigh more than
we should. A full third of us are technically obese.  But we’re
not alone.  Mexicans are now the most obese people, on
average, on earth.   And our fellow English-speakers, the
British, lead the league charts in European obesity. Among
underdeveloped regions of the world, Pacific Islanders lead the
pack with over 70% obesity.

The cure therefore is to maintain a normal body weight,
between 20 and 24.9 BMI.

Keep Moving. Blood clots form most easily when your
blood is not flowing fast enough. Simply moving your calf
muscles by flexing your feet helps to move your blood flow.  
But do more than that. Move your body as much as possible.
Walk at least 45 minutes a day.  Prefer to walk fast when you
walk.  Staying sedentary is the single worse thing you can do if
you want to avoid blood clots.

Drink Water. Thin blood is less likely to clot. Studies
show that those who drink more water have fewer strokes and
heart attacks and suffer less from blood clots. Perhaps even
better than drinking water is "eating water". Studies show that
people who "eat their water" by eating higher proportions of
water-rich fruits and vegetables, such as the Greeks and the
South Koreans, have better overall health. (Read more about
how much water you should "eat" and how much you should

Take an Aspirin. Aspirin thins out your blood and acts as
an anticoagulant.  Ask your doctor if an aspirin a day is
something you should do.

Eat Fish. Fish oil helps to thin your blood, which is why
if you’re already on blood-thinning medications, doctors warn
against taking fish oil supplements. But if you’re not on these
medications, ask your doctor if taking a daily fish oil pill can
help your blood flow and overall health.

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Beloved "tough guy" actor Dennis Farina died of
a blood clot.
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