Is there a 100% guarantee that by taking preventative measures, you will never experience a deep vein thrombosis (DVT)? Unfortunately, no. However, through prevention and proactive health management, you can drastically reduce the risk.
What is a deep vein thrombosis? A DVT is a blood clot that typically develops in the lower extremities, most commonly in the calf or the thigh.
What causes a deep vein thrombosis and what are the risks? A number of medical conditions or scenarios can contribute to the formation of a blood clot:
- Surgery and post-surgical recovery, especially during long periods of immobility or bed rest
- Clotting disorders
- Cardiovascular conditions such as atrial fibrillation (AFib)
- Obesity, which increases venous pressure in the legs and pelvic region
- Smoking, which increases blood pressure and can negatively affect circulation and the ability of blood to clot properly
What makes a DVT potentially dangerous is due to the possibility of a portion or all of the clot breaking loose from the blood vessel wall. When that happens, it’s pushed through the bloodstream and can end up in the lungs. At this point, the clot is called a pulmonary embolism (PE). Blocking blood flow in the lungs restricts oxygen and prevents return of oxygenated blood back to the heart. A PE is an extremely emergent situation and if left untreated can lead to death.
Other dangers of a DVT breaking loose is the clot traveling toward the heart, blocking any number of blood vessels that promote heart function, contributing to a heart attack. If a blood clot reaches and blocks blood vessels that supply the brain with oxygen, a stroke may occur.
Take steps to prevent a DVT
- Get moving! Even if you have to sit at a desk all day for your job, try to get up and move around at least once an hour. If you can’t, take advantage of a number of sitting exercises that keep circulation flowing in the lower extremities. For example, lift your feet off the floor and rotate your ankles clockwise and counterclockwise every 20 to 30 minutes or so. You can press you toes into the floor and lift your heels up high, prompting contraction of the calf muscles. Perform sitting marches, lifting your knees toward the ceiling, getting the thighs up off the bottom of your chair. Even small movements are beneficial.
- Exercise on a regular basis. Exercise improves circulatory function and keeps muscles toned. Any type of exercise is beneficial. Aerobic exercise such as walking or activities that get the heart pumping are extremely beneficial.
- Make some lifestyle changes if you’re overweight or you smoke. A balanced and nutritious diet, losing weight, and quitting smoking are also effective preventative measures that you can decrease your risk of a DVT.
Taking steps to prevent DVT enhances not only overall health and wellness, but reduces risk of heart attack, stroke, or pulmonary embolism.