The Effects of Water on Blood Viscosity

The Effects of Water on Blood Viscosity

How Blood Viscosity is a Precursor to Health

The study of blood flow properties along with its elements of plasma and cells is called Hemorheology, haemorheology or blood rheology. Proper tissue perfusion which is the circulation of the blood through the vascular tissue, can only occur when the blood’s rheological properties are within a range of certain levels. When there are alterations in these levels, then disease occurs.

Blood viscosity is established by plasma viscosity, hematocrit, and the mechanical properties of red blood cells. Erythrocyte deformability and erythrocyte aggregation are involved in the mechanical properties that make red blood cells work.

Erythrocyte deformability refers to the process of erythrocytes (red blood cells or RBC) that change shape while under applied stress without rupturing.  This is an important feature because red blood cells must change their shape constantly under the mechanical pressure created by fluid flow, especially with microcirculation in the smallest blood vessels and microvessels present in organ tissues. Blood flows through the microvessels that include terminal arterioles, metarterioles, capilliaries, and venules which then carries blood into the veins.

Erythrocyte aggregation is the reversible clumping of red blood cells at stasis. Erythrocytes form rouleaux or stacks of red blood cells because of their discoid shape. The flat surface allows the cells to stick together creating what is referred to as “sticky blood.”  This stickiness occurs when the plasma protein is high and the Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate or ESR is also increased. When these symptoms occur, it may be an indicator that disease, inflammation, or an allergic reaction is present.

Blood viscosity can become an issue locally and systemically. If you have an injury, it may lead to local or regional tissue edema which occurs when the blood flow is constrained resulting in thicker blood where the edema is located. Additionally, when there is inflammation present, blood viscosity or thickness can be systemic leading to an increase in fibrinogen, C-reactive protein, sticky grouped platelets, increased protein in the vascular and extravascular area which leads to thick blood or increased viscosity throughout the body. (Reference: Blood Viscosity,

When the blood is too thick or when the viscosity levels are not normal as in the case of systemic inflammation, a decrease of blood flow occurs. It’s important to improve the viscosity since this will lead to poor delivery of nutrition, hormones and other naturally recurring chemicals to local tissues, especially with capillaries. Increased thickness in the blood can also irritate a pre-existing inflammatory condition. Alarmingly, it can lead to the development of clots or thrombosis in the blood vessels which in turn may alter the circulation and can lead to stroke, heart attack, or a pulmonary embolism. (Reference: Blood Viscosity,

In this 2017 independent BioMedCentral (BMC Neurology) study, blood viscosity was examined as a risk factor and/or predictor for cerebrovascular events such as acute stroke and cerebral small vessel disease. Also, the study revealed how blood viscosity changes after a stroke. The conclusive results suggest that elevated diastolic blood viscosity (DBV) may play a role in the development of acute and chronic manifestations of cerebral small vessel disease. The recurring elevation of the diastolic blood viscosity (DBV) in small artery occlusion (small artery disease) or SAO stroke, even when patients are taking medications for avoiding a second stroke, indicates that adequate hydration and additional interventions focusing on blood viscosity may be required in SAO stroke patients. Hydration is the key word here.

Another term used to define blood viscosity is Hyperviscosity Syndrome which means that blood isn’t able to flow freely enough through your arteries. Hyperviscosity Syndrome is present in both children and adults. In children, it can affect their growth as blood flow to the vital organs such as the heart, intestines, kidneys and brain are reduced. In adults, Hyperviscosity Syndrome is prevalent with anyone who has an autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus, diabetes, and it may develop with the blood cancers lymphoma and leukemia.

Blood viscosity can also be measured for its thickness or stickiness. An interesting fact about blood viscosity is that it is not the same thickness or viscosity at all times, meaning, it is not consistently thick or thin. Blood viscosity establishes how hard the heart must work to create blood circulation, but also that slow moving thick blood can cause physical injury to the inner walls of the arteries. Thick blood can lead to inflammation and eventual heart damage as stated above.

Blood viscosity varies with rate since it can change with increased flow when you exercise for example, and it becomes thinner. Blood can also thin out when you drink adequate water to keep the body fully hydrated on a daily basis.

In this 2017 article from Medical News Today All you need to know about thick blood, it states that although certain health conditions are linked to thick blood, the treatments for thick blood depends on the conditions causing it. However, as indicated in the results of the study above, hydration plays an important role in maintaining healthy blood flow, therefore, drinking water is one of the best ways to achieve an acceptable blood viscosity level and optimum health.




BMC Neurology

Hyperviscosity Syndrome (Healthline)

Holistic Primary Care





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