Platelets are small cell fragments which have an important role in clotting the blood and help to stop bleeding when blood vessels become injured. A platelet count is the number of platelets in the blood. It is simply just a count, it doesn’t give any indication of how well they are functioning.
Platelets are known as anucleate cells, that is they have no nucleus, and circulate in the blood searching for defects in structural integrity. In other words, if there is a wound then the platelets will work together to naturally stem the bleed and clot the blood.
Platelets naturally circulate in the blood. When an injury occurs causing a blood vessel wall to break, the platelets become activated and can begin to seal the wound. When inactivated, platelets are circular in shape, but then they are activated they change to a spiky formation. This change in shape allows them to stick to the broken vessel and each other enabling them to plug the hole. Another protein found in the blood called fibrin interacts with the platelets to help seal the wound. Fibrin helps to form a net which traps more activated, circulating platelets and other red blood cells to produce a clot which seals the wound.
Due to their clotting properties, however, platelets have been shown to produce clots in diseased vessels too (known as thrombosis). Platelet activation also provides a link between the development of disease which is predisposed to inflammation and thrombosis. Therefore, a platelet count can be used as a prognostic and therapeutic marker for such diseases.
A low platelet count is also called thrombocytopenia and can be caused by two things:
A high platelet count or thrombocytosis is caused by an overproduction of platelets. The condition can be a side effect of another condition or can be caused by bone marrow problems. A serious side effect of thrombocytosis can be blood clots. These can vary from tiny blood clots in the hands and feet, leaving them numb and red to severe clots in organs such as the brain and heart.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet and getting a sufficient amount of exercise can help to keep you healthy.
Iron is essential for the health of red blood cells. Red blood cells play a key role in the initial plugging of a wound alongside platelets. Good sources of dietary iron include:
Plant-based sources of iron such as dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, seed, pulses and fortified cereals may be absorbed better in the presence of vitamin C. Try eating fortified breakfast cereals alongside a glass of orange juice or swap chips for a jacket potato with a side of green leafy veg – be sure to eat the skin of the potato.
You should also refrain from drinking tea with your meals as this can affect iron absorption. Instead, you should drink it between meals to ensure you absorb iron effectively.
Haemostasis is the body’s normal ability to respond to bleeding or haemorrhage. Research has shown that haemostasis is involved in the benefits gained from physical exercise. MPV could be a predictor of endurance performance in long-duration exercise.
Physical activity is preventative against cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. But exercise leads to temporary activation on the thrombotic system. In healthy individuals, there is an increase in fibrin activity. However, in people who have heart disease, their fibrin activity is compromised. Therefore, they should seek medical advice before attempting strenuous physical exertion.
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 National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (2018). Thrombocythemia and Thrombocytosis. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/thrombocythemia-and-thrombocytosis
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