Friday, July 16, 2021

DVT or Deep Vein Thrombosis - Lower Your Risk

One of the dangers people of any age can face is a life-threatening blood clot which starts in a deep vein and travels to the heart or brain.  The older we are, the greater our risk. When these blood clots form in a deep vein in our legs, it is called a DVT or Deep Vein Thrombosis. While you may not be able to totally eliminate the risk, there are steps you can take to reduce the danger of developing a DVT.

As a result, everyone should be able to recognize the symptoms, the activities which increase your risk of developing DVTs, the ways you can lower your risk, and what to do if you suspect you have a problem.

Symptoms of a DVT

If you unexpectedly notice any worrisome symptoms, especially after engaging in one of the activities listed later in this article, contact your doctor.  According to WebMD, the symptoms of DVT are:  swelling, unexpected bruises, or a stabbing "Charley horse" pain in your arm, leg, or chest.  You may also experience throbbing pain, swelling, a painful lump, redness (with the skin turning white or blue in the areas deprived of blood), warmness in a tender area of the leg, tired legs, visible or bulging veins, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, confusion or absolutely no symptoms at all. In many cases of DVTs, the victim does not realize it is happening.  

If you do have one or more of the above symptoms, especially if they occur after any of the activities listed below, you should be concerned and talk to your doctor.  You may also want to read "100 Questions and Answers About Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism." (Ad) This book is a must-read for anyone with a history of DVTs or who is at particularly high risk.   

Possible Causes of DVT

Flying in an Airplane - Spending hours strapped into an airplane seat at a high altitude, while not moving, and drinking very little water, puts you at increased risk, even if you are otherwise healthy.

Being an Athlete - Engaging in demanding endurance events, such as running marathons, may cause you to be more prone to DVTs, especially if you become dehydrated or are injured.

Surgery - Being confined to bed after surgery, particularly surgery to your pelvis, hips, legs or abdomen, could raise your risk of DVTs.   Your doctor may prescribe a blood thinner to reduce the risk.  Be careful if you are placed on a blood thinner.  They can increase your risk of bleeding, which is dangerous if you accidentally cut yourself.

People of any age can be affected by a DVT after surgery. When I was a young mother in my 30s, another mother I knew died suddenly of a DVT the day after having minor knee surgery. Everyone should be aware of this surgical risk and watch for signs of a problem during the following few days.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Crohn's Disease, and ulcerative colitis - If you have a bowel disease, you could have double or triple the risk of a DVT.  This is for several reasons, including that the patients are more likely to need surgery, be on bed rest, or become dehydrated. 

Low Vitamin D - A surprisingly large percentage of people do not have enough Vitamin D in their system, despite the fact that there are a number of ways to get an adequate amount.  You can meet your needs by taking a supplement, spending 30 minutes twice a week in the sun (without sunscreen), or by eating foods such as salmon, tuna, cheese and egg yolks.   If you believe you may not have enough Vitamin D in your system, get tested and discuss with your doctor how you can improve your levels of this vitamin, if needed.

Estrogen and testosterone supplements, including birth control medications - Taking hormones like estrogen or testosterone may increase your risk of DVTs.  It is important to be particularly aware of this if you also have any of the other risk factors, such as a recent surgery, low Vitamin D, or you fly frequently. 

Cancer - Some causes of DVT are simply unavoidable.  Blood clots are associated with lymphoma, leukemia, and cancers of the liver, brain, colon, lung, kidney, ovary and pancreas.  In addition, some types of chemo can cause blood clots.  Follow your doctor's orders carefully to minimize your risk, and stay as active as your doctor permits.

Being Overweight - If you have a BMI over 25, you are at added risk of a DVT.  If you are overweight and also have a secondary problem, such as using birth control, your risk could go up substantially.  

Pregnancy - Carrying a baby puts pressure on your pelvis and legs, increasing your risk of a DVT.  The risk continues for six weeks after you give birth.  The older the mother, the greater the risk.  If you are carrying twins, your risk also goes up.  Be especially attentive if you have a family history of blood clots or you have been put on bed rest. 

If YOU were a premature baby - You are at greater risk of a DVT if you were born before 37 weeks of gestation.  Doctors do not know exactly why, but your increased risk for a DVT continues throughout your lifetime.

Smoking -  This activity is known to increase your risk for blood clots.  Your risk increases substantially when combined with any of the other risk factors, such as obesity, birth control or pregnancy.

What to Do if You are At Risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis

As you can see from the above list, almost everyone has at least one risk factor for DVTs.  You can have an increased risk if you are too active, and if you are not active enough.  You can be at risk when traveling, or if you sit at home and become overweight. Some things are totally out of your control, such as having cancer or having been a premature baby. Other things are within your control, such as smoking or being sedentary.  With all these factors to consider, what can you do to protect yourself, or at least lower your risk of succumbing to a DVT?

Keep moving your body, especially on flights - Get up and walk around the plane every hour or two.  I prefer to have an aisle seat so I do not disturb other passengers.  I also try to move my legs and fidget a little in my seat, to keep my blood flowing.  In order to make sure you are awake and moving, you may want to skip the alcoholic beverages and the sleeping pills before a flight.  Try pumping your feet up and down frequently during the flight, by lifting and lowering your heels.

Drink plenty of water - Both when you are flying or staying active as part of your daily routine, make sure you do not let yourself become dehydrated.

Do not sit too long - Whether you are working from home or at a desk in an office, move as much as you can.  Do little exercises with your feet and ankles.  Get up every hour and walk around.  Stretch.  Do not sit frozen in one position.  Take frequent breaks when riding in a car, too.  Pull off the road every hour or two, and just walk around for a few minutes. 

Wear compression stockings or socks - If you have a risk factor for DVTs (and almost everyone does at some time in their lives) you might consider wearing compression stockings or socks, (Ad) especially while flying or on a long drive.  They will help improve your blood flow and reduce foot swelling.  There are many different brands and styles, from knee high to thigh high.  They come with different levels of compression.  They come both closed toe and with open toes.  Try different styles until you find a pair which are comfortable and will work for you.  You can find dozens of choices of compression socks, (Ad) and pick out a pair which you think you will like.  In looking through the choices available, you will see that you can find a variety of pairs which are cute and stylish, for both men and women.  I have some which I wear whenever I fly, and believe that my legs feel better when I get off the plane.

Keep moving - The more you move, the lower your risk of a DVT.  You do not have to run a marathon (in fact, that could increase your risk).  Just take frequent walks, lift weights, or sign up for a yoga or aerobics class. Take dance lessons. Any movement will reduce the danger of developing a DVT.

Anything you can do to lower your risk will benefit you, so just try to control the things you can.  Do not smoke and do not let yourself become too sedentary.  Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your risk of a DVT.  Your physician may have specific advice based on your health and medical history. 

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Photo credit:  pixabay - USA Vein Clinics

1 comment:

  1. Seems the best ways to avoid DVT is to live a "medium" life style. Everything in moderation, even moderation!


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