Doctors warn patients of the risk of blood clots, but it’s one of those things not too many of us worry about.
The thing is, we probably should be worried— especially at certain times in our lives (more on that in a minute). In fact, one study cited by the National Blood Clot Alliance found that more than two million people have a serious blood clot emergency each year. It also found that up to 100,000 people die each year from blood clots.
The problem with blood clots that form in your legs, feet or groin is that they can easily break free and quickly travel to the lungs, where they cut off breathing. That’s called pulmonary embolism and it ends up being deadly about one third of the time, according to the National Blood Clot Alliance.
You may run a blood clot risk if you notice:
• Swelling in an arm or leg
• Leg pain often described as feeling like a cramp or Charley horse
• Skin that turns bluish or red
• A limb that is warm to the touch
While everybody should be aware of the signs of a blood clot, some people should be especially careful. They include:
• People who are traveling. Sitting for long periods of time, whether on a plane or in a car, increases the risk of a blood clot, especially after four hours. Walk around every hour if you can. If you can’t, then try raising your heels while keeping your toes on the floor (and vice versa). It also helps to drink plenty of fluids (except for caffeinated beverages and alcohol). You should also wear loose fitting clothes and avoid crossing your legs.
• People who are overweight. This puts extra pressure on the veins in the legs and causes circulation issues. Losing weight is the best fix, of course, but it can also help to exercise more (including stretching the calf muscles) and wear compression stockings.
• People who are on birth control pills or take hormone replacement therapy. Both of these are known to increase clotting, especially for those who are overweight or smoke, which brings us to the next risk factor.
• People who smoke. The only solution here is to quit but, in the meantime, be especially cautious when travelling or after surgery.
• People who have a family history of blood clotting. There are quite a few genetic conditions that can make blood clotting more common, including Factor V Leiden, which affects up to 7 percent of people of white European descent.
• Women who are pregnant or just had a baby. Just like being overweight, this puts extra pressure on veins. The risk continues for two months after your baby is born.
• People who have survived cancer. Some medications used to treat cancer also make blood clots more likely. Talk to your doctor if you’re unsure how your medication affects the risk of blood clots.
• People who are on bed rest. Bed rest both slows your circulation and causes blood to pool. Talk to your doctor about steps you can take to decrease your risk of blood clots forming while on bed rest.
Blood clots can be treated. There are also steps you can take to prevent them. If you’re overweight or a smoker, consider getting help as everyone knows those are tough battles to fight on your own.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment. The goal, after all, is to improve both your health and your quality of life—and we’d like to be a part of helping you accomplish both.