Being ranked as the highest all-time box office star with over £19 billion ($27 billion) to his name, when he fell ill it was unsurprising that there was public panic. Having faced demons both on and off screen it was a life-threatening blood clot near his heart that was one of the scariest battles the US star has had to deal with.
Talking to charity One For The Boys, the 72-year-old said: “Because I was losing weight, people thought I was dying. They feared I had cancer.”
After visiting the doctor, the star was given surprising advice. Advice that he said was his “greatest chance of staying alive”.
Blood clots near the heart can be known as arterial thrombosis. These blood clots in arteries can stop blood from reaching important organs, leading to fatal conditions such as heart attacks and stroke.
The NHS explains that it is possible to prevent blood clots such as this entirely, but you can reduce your risk by following these life-style changes:
- Stop smoking
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy weight – find advice about losing weight
- Cut down on your alcohol consumption.
READ MORE: High cholesterol: Five signs in your legs you must address
In order to save his life Jackson made these changes, becoming an unlikely advocate for veganism.
The star said: “I lost weight, lowered my blood pressure, lowered my cholesterol levels and my body mass index.
“But I’m lucky. I’m forced to get a full medical before every film otherwise I can’t get insurance. The average man doesn’t have that luxury, so it’s important they stay vigilant.”
Although adopting a completely vegan diet is a drastic change that is not necessarily needed to ensure health and help to avoid blood clots, Jackson said that the change worked in saving his life.
Referring to himself as a “hardcore vegan” the star only eats a diet made up of plants.
Due to these changes Jackson was able to lose three stone in weight. Although this initially caused panic amongst his fans, the star put their minds at rest, revealing that it was in fact the opposite – he was getting healthier.
Individuals who are at high risk of getting a blood clot, may be recommended medicines by their doctor to control the levels of their cholesterol and blood pressure.
Those with arterial thrombosis may need to also be treated with surgery and additional medicine. These treatments include the following:
- Injections of a medicine called a thrombolytic which can dissolve some blood clots
- An operation to remove the clot (embolectomy)
- An operation to widen the affected artery – for example, an angioplasty (where a hollow tube is placed inside the artery to hold it open)
- Surgery to divert blood around the blocked artery – for example, a coronary artery bypass graft (where a blood vessel taken from another part of the body is used to bypass a Blockage in the artery that supplies the heart muscle).
As well as arterial thrombosis there are several other types of blood clot to be aware of. These can develop within veins in the legs, lungs or anywhere around the body.
The NHS recommends calling 111 if you experience the following symptoms:
- Throbbing or cramping pain, swelling, redness and warmth in a leg or arm
- Sudden breathlessness, sharp chest pain (may be worse when you breathe in) and a cough or coughing up blood.
These could indicate that a blood clot has developed and if it is not treated quickly it can become serious.
As well as bad life-style habits, factors such as using combined hormonal contraception, being pregnant, having an inflammatory condition such as Crohn’s or rheumatoid arthritis can also increase your risk of blood clots.
Looking after his own health is not the only thing that Jackson has become invested in.
Working closely with the charity One For The Boys, the legendary actor has turned his attention to male cancer – particularly prostate cancer.
The star said that men in general “tend to talk about injuries rather than illnesses. It’s kind of sad. Guys will happily go for a physical to check their weight or their blood, but they don’t talk about a strange feeling they have in their groin because they tell themselves it’ll blow away or it’ll pass. Before you know it they’ve waited too long and it’s too late”.
Talking generally about his health and life-style choices and the advice he had for others, Jackson added: “You need to look around you, figure out the worth of your life and how you want to live the rest of your life. The sooner you can figure that out, the better off you’re going to be.”