3 Things You Can Do To Prevent The Dangers of Deep Vein Thrombosis aka Blood Clots
Most people are familiar with blood clots and know that a clot has the potential to prevent an artery from doing its job of supplying your heart or your brain. And they also know that if that’s the case, then you could be looking at a heart attack or stroke.
However, what people are not nearly as familiar with are blood clots that form in your veins, called deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, for short.
Many times these clots begin as pain or tenderness in the thigh or calf, swelling in one leg, skin that feels warm to the touch, red discoloration, or streaks on the skin. So people don’t think much of them. They ice them, they practice caution and go about their lives not realizing that they could be putting themselves at some serious risk.
And this isn’t something rare that happens to just a handful of people–deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is more common than most people think. In fact, the CDC estimates that between 60,000 and 100,000 Americans die from deep vein thrombosis every year. Deep vein thrombosis is no small issue and is one you should be sure you are doing what you can to prevent.
Here are the ways you can potentially lower your risk of experiencing deep vein thrombosis.
Deep Vein Thrombosis Risks
The blood clots that result in DVT can be caused by a number of things — really anything that keeps your blood from being able to circulate as it normally does. While this typically includes things such as vein injury, surgery, and medication, there are additional things that put people at higher risk for developing deep vein thrombosis than others.
One of the biggest factors is age. DVTs are found most commonly in adults 60 years of age or older, but that does not mean they can’t (and won’t) happen to younger people. In addition to age, here are a number of things that are likely to put you at risk of DVT:
- Bowel disease. Diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis affect the bowels.
- Heart failure. Since people with heart failure are already suffering from limited heart and lung function, their risk of DVT increases.
- Cancer. Different types of cancer up your chances of developing substances in your blood that can lead to clotting. In addition, some of the treatments used for cancer can also increase clotting.
- Inheriting a disorder. It is possible to inherit a disorder that causes blood to easily clot.
- Bed rest. The longer your legs stay in one place, with minimal movement, the higher your risk of developing clots due to the fact that your muscles are not able to contract to properly keep your blood circulating.
- Injury. Injuring your veins increases the chances of clotting.
- Smoking. Smoking causes some serious problems with blood clotting and circulation.
- Pregnancy. The extra weight and pressure of pregnancy increase pressure on your veins, particularly those in your pelvis and your legs. And, the risk of clots from pregnancy doesn’t stop once the baby is born — the risk exists for up to six weeks post-delivery.
- Oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy. Both of these put your blood at risk of clotting.
- Extra weight and obesity. Similar to pregnancy, extra weight causes the pressure on your body’s veins (especially those in your pelvis and legs) to increase, thus opening up the possibility for clotting.
- Family history. If a member of your family suffered from DVT, chances are higher that you will too.
- Sitting for too long (esp. when driving or flying). As mentioned above, when sitting still for long periods of time, your calf muscles are not able to do their job of contracting to help blood circulate. This can lead to blood clots in your calves.
Signs & Symptoms of DVT
When you first see the below signs, you may not automatically jump to thinking you have deep vein thrombosis. However, it is always advised to err on the safe side, and contact your doctor if you find yourself suffering from any of the following:
- Leg pain that feels like cramping or soreness
- Skin discoloration or redness on the legs
- Warm feeling in the legs
If you ignore these initial signs, you run the risk of some serious complications.
How to Prevent DVT
In order to avoid all the complications that could possibly come with deep vein thrombosis, and to keep from suffering from blood clots in the first place, there are some steps that you can take.
1. Maintain a safe and stable weight.
Because being overweight and worse, obese, increases your risk for deep vein thrombosis, make a point to keep your health in check. The best ways to do this are:
- Regular exercise
- Healthy diet
- 7-8 hours of sleep a night
- Low-stress levels
2. Keep from sitting still.
If you haven’t moved in four hours, you are long overdue to get up and get moving. Staying in one place for any longer than 4 hours increases your risk of DVT. Sometimes this can be tough — for example, when enduring an international flight and being stuck on an airplane. However, it is important that you get up during the flight multiple times, stretch, and get your blood flowing again.
3. Get to know your family history.
The chances of developing DVT are much higher if you have a history of blood clots in your family. Thus, it is a good idea for you to do your research to check out your family history and find out whether deep vein thrombosis is prevalent in your relatives.
4. Keep hormones in check.
According to Harvard Medical School, increased levels of estrogen that occur either with the use of birth control pills, hormone therapy, or during pregnancy puts you at a higher risk of developing deep vein thrombosis. Be sure to follow up regularly with your healthcare provider.
5. Double-check your medications.
As mentioned above, hormone-related medications such as hormone therapy and birth control pills have shown to increase your chances of developing blood clots and possibly deep vein thrombosis.
This has opened up the risk of DVT to younger generations, which means everyone needs to be aware of the risk, and do what they can to prevent it.
It’s best to talk with your doctor about your medications if you have concerns with developing blood clots or DVT.
6. Learn your risks.
The best way to do this is to see your doctor. Talk to him or her about what factors of your life are putting you at high risk of developing deep vein thrombosis and even worse, pulmonary embolism. Deep vein thrombosis is not a rare, obscure problem that affects a very small number of people. DVT affects millions of Americans every year, and you want to do your best to not be one of them.