While we may not always have control over our bodies, we do have the potential to keep them as healthy as possible. To do so we have to remember one vital component to this theme: Use it or lose it.
That phrase applies to many body organs, especially our brain, cardiovascular, nervous, and musculoskeletal systems. When it comes to deep vein thrombosis (deep vein blood clot or DVT) prevention, your vascular health can come down to one thing: movement.
DVTs in the lower extremities are primarily caused by lack of movement or exercise. It doesn’t matter whether you sit at a desk all day, are recovering from a surgical procedure, an illness, or you’ve taken a long road trip or flight. Keeping the blood pumping through your body prevents pooling. Pooling occurs when gravity plus inactivity makes it difficult for the blood vessels to pump blood back up to the heart and lungs.
Movement of blood through the veins involves the circulatory system and smooth muscle, which composes the majority of blood vessel walls. Arterial smooth muscle relaxes in between heartbeats to allow blood into an area, while venous smooth muscle pumps blood back to the heart.
Movement is key to prevent blood from pooling and keep circulation going, both beneficial in preventing the potential of a DVT.
Exercise to reduce risk of DVT
A few simple exercises performed several times throughout the day can help reduce the risk of developing blood clots in the lower extremities.
- Walking not only aids circulation but also helps reduce stress, and blood pressure. Even a short walk across a room is beneficial. Try to avoid sitting for more than four hours at a time. Get up and stretch and walk – get those calf muscles moving!
- Even if you have to sit in a chair or car for long periods, you can rotate your ankles (counter and then counter-clockwise), or point or flex your toes, or do a dozen or so foot pumps by placing your toes on the floor and lifting the heel as high as you can. Hold contractions for a count of then and then relax. Repeat at least ten times.
- If you have the leg room and you’re seated, extend your leg out in front of you, then bring it toward your chest, then lower the leg. Move slowly but with purpose and then repeat with the other leg.
- At your desk, sit back in your chair and pretend you’re marching in place, grasping the bottom of the chair for support if needed.
The key is to move. Make up foot games that contract and flex muscles in the feet, ankles, and calves. These days, many of us are sedentary because we have to be. Still, do what you can as often as you can to keep your blood from pooling in the lower extremities and you’ll also be doing your part to reduce your risk for a DVT.