Where did you first hear about deep vein thrombosis (DVT)? Most people encounter the conditions when airlines warn passengers about it on long plane flights. But DVT can strike anyone who spends a lot of time sitting or people who have certain health conditions.
DVT is caused by a blood clot that develops deep in the veins, most often in the legs or lower body. The clot can obstruct blood flow and cause heavy swelling, pain, and discoloration in the affected area. If left untreated, it can travel through the bloodstream to the pulmonary artery, which can result in a life-threatening condition called a pulmonary embolism (PE). Unfortunately, the Center for Disease Control estimates that 60,000-100,000 Americans die of DVT/PE each year.
However, there are several ways to minimize your risk of developing blood clots, as well as seek treatment if you or someone you know is affected. Here are six of the best ways to mitigate the risk of DVT:
1. Review Your Meds
It’s important to know which medications can increase your risk of DVT. All estrogen-containing medications may put you at a higher risk of clotting, as well as the NuvaRing and newer birth control pills with drospirenone. To reduce your chance of developing a blood clot, your doctor may recommend non-hormonal birth control options such as a copper IUD.
Medications containing testosterone can also increase your risk. The FDA announced that prescription testosterone products must include a warning about DVT. Prednisone and other steroids can raise your clotting risk as well, especially at high doses. If you take any of these medications, be sure to talk to your doctor about how you can monitor your health.
2. Know Your Family History
Understanding your genetic history will help you make more informed decisions about your risk factors. DVT is more common in people who have poor circulation or a family history of blood clots. Studies show that people with two or more siblings with DVT are exponentially more likely to develop a blood clot compared to someone with no affected siblings. If you have a history of DVT in your family, talk to your doctor about avoiding hormones or taking anti-clotting drugs after surgery.
3. Monitor Your Weight
Being overweight can put extra strain on your body and raise your risk of developing a blood clot. Studies show that obesity can increase your DVT risk by 2- to 3-fold, especially in women over five foot six and men who are six feet or taller. Losing weight can help substantially lower this risk.
4. Stretch Your Legs
Moving around regularly is a great way to keep your body healthy and avoid blood clots. If you have a desk job, try to stand up and walk around once every hour. On long flights, it’s important to exercise your feet and legs by walking or raising and lowering your heels while sitting. This engages your calf muscles and propels blood upward, lowering your chances of clotting.
5. Eat Better
Maintain a healthy diet that’s low in fat and high in fiber by eating lots of fruits, vegetables, and fish. A 2017 study showed that people who took fish oil pills and ate fish three or more times a week had a 48% lower chance of developing DVT than those who did not.
6. Pay Attention After Surgery
World Thrombosis Day reports that 60% of DVT cases occur in people who have recently been hospitalized. This includes patients who have had surgery, experienced trauma, or suffered from an illness. To help reduce your risk, talk to your doctor about a DVT risk assessment before surgery or hospitalization. He or she may recommend anti-clotting medications or devices like compression stockings to prevent blood clots from forming.
DVT is an uncomfortable and serious condition that affects people of all ages. To reduce your risk of developing blood clots, stay vigilant and active by following the guidelines above. Regular visits to a vein specialist can also help you monitor your venous health or detect DVT at its earliest stages.