April 07, 2023
Blood clots, also known as venous thromboembolisms or VTEs, are a serious and growing health threat. According to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, in the U.S. some 900,000 Americans are affected by blood clots each year, with nearly 100,000 deaths. Serious blood clots usually show up as a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) commonly in the deep veins of the lower legs, or as a pulmonary embolism (PE) where the clot breaks off and travels to the lungs.
So what are the most effective ways of preventing a blood clot from happening?
One - Be Aware of Your Weight
If you are overweight or obese (defined as having a body mass index or BMI of 25 or higher) then you are at an increased risk of developing a blood clot. This is because all those extra pounds make it more difficult for the blood in the veins of your legs to get back to the heart and lungs. Also, being obese can increase the risk of developing a blood clotting disorder and also promotes chronic inflammation, which also raises your risk.
Two - Get Moving
Staying as active as possible is one of the best ways to prevent blood clots as this helps to increase the flow of blood in your legs. Many people spend long hours sitting at a desk working, without ever getting up to stretch. A long-haul airplane flight (one that is longer than seven or eight hours) can also increase your risk. Reserving an aisle seat, getting up and moving around every hour, and wearing compression stockings while in the air will help to greatly decrease your risk.
Three - Stop Smoking
Besides increasing your risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and other major health problems, smokers are also at increased risk for blood clots. Smoking causes the activation of special cells in your blood known as platelets. These are the cells that stop bleeding when you get a cut by sticking to each other, forming a clot. When you have an increased number of extra sticky platelets, your risk of a clot greatly increases. Ask your doctor for help in quitting.
Four - Drink Your Water
Staying well hydrated is important to keep from developing sluggish blood flow, which in turn raises your risk of a clot. This is especially important to keep in mind when you know you are going to be immobile for a long period of time, such as on a long-haul airplane flight. No calorie, naturally flavored water can be very helpful if you don’t like the “taste” of water. Or you can simply add a squeeze of lemon or lime to make staying hydrated more interesting.
Five - Chill That Stress
Surprisingly, chronic stress can also increase your risk of developing a blood clot. Stress can increase your blood pressure, as well as cause inflammation in your body, which contributes to the risk of developing heart disease or a stroke as well as blood clots. Developing a meditation practice, regularly practicing gratitude, getting outside in nature, and breathing exercises can all help to keep your stress under control.
Bonus Tip - Know Your Risks for Blood Clots
Some people are more at risk than others for developing a potentially serious blood clot. Among the risks are age over 55, smoking, being overweight or obese, being immobile for long periods, a family history, being pregnant, hormone therapy, and having cancer or undergoing cancer treatment can all increase your risk for a blood clot. To more accurately assess your personal risk, speak to your health care provider.
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