Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a serious condition that can often be prevented. These blood clots affect about half a million people a year, but simple precautions can dramatically lower your risk.
This is some background on DVT and preventive steps you can take while traveling or during your daily activities.
Background on DVT
- What is DVT? DVT is a blood clot that usually forms in the lower leg or thigh, but can occur in other parts of the body. Prompt treatment is required for deep vein clots because they can become a pulmonary embolism (PE). This is when a clot breaks off and travels to the lungs where it may block blood flow.
- Limit the risk factors you can control. There are many things you can do to avoid DVT. Regular medical checkups and an active lifestyle are important for everybody. Take special care when you’re sitting for long periods of time, like when you’re on an international flight.
- Manage additional risk factors. Your medical history and stage of life also come into play. A family history of DVT, high blood pressure, cancer and surgery may pose additional risks. DVT is also more common during pregnancy and for people over 60.
- Recognize the symptoms. DVT often occurs without any symptoms. Signs you may notice include swelling, warmth or redness in your leg, or pain when walking or standing. Seek care immediately if you have trouble breathing or cough up blood.
Preventive Steps to Take While Traveling
- Move around. Walk the aisles during a long trip on planes and trains. On a road trip, park your car every hour to get out and stretch.
- Flex your feet and legs. If you’re stuck in your seat, you can still take the pressure off your lower body. Sit with your legs uncrossed. Curl your toes, lift your feet and swivel your ankles.
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water. Snack on foods that are high in water like celery sticks, lettuce and yogurt.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine. Similarly, cut back on alcohol which acts as a diuretic and deprives your body of water. Some people are also sensitive to caffeine.
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing. Avoid tight socks, high top sneakers or anything that constricts your ankles.
- Ask your doctor for advice. Even for frequent fliers, the risk of DVT is low. If you’re concerned about your individual needs, ask your doctor about taking blood thinners or wearing compression stockings.
Preventive Steps to Take Anytime
- Maintain a healthy weight. Avoiding blood clots is one more good reason to shed any excess pounds. You’ll look and feel better.
- Exercise regularly. Daily walks are a great form of exercise that can fit into almost any schedule. Train for strength and flexibility too.
- Quit smoking. Using tobacco thickens your blood and makes it more vulnerable to clotting. There are many products available today that make quitting easier.
- Prop up your legs. Put pillows under your legs or elevate the foot of your bed. It may be especially important during times like pregnancy or when recovering from surgery.
- Wear a medical ID bracelet. Medical ID bracelets alert others to your condition even if you are unable to talk. They make it easier for emergency care providers to respond to your needs by letting them know if you’ve experienced a previous clot or currently use blood thinners.
Protect your wellbeing by lowering your risk for DVT. Maintain a physically active lifestyle, take extra care on long trips, and follow your doctor’s recommendations if you need to take blood thinners or wear compression stockings.