The Silent Killer In Your Veins

Serena Williams

Tennis star Serena Williams battled it and it was the cause of the untimely death of Heavy D, as well as countless Americans every single day. What exactly are blood clots, how can you prevent them, and what are the risk factors?

Currently, it is estimated that 25,000 people who are admitted to hospital die from preventable venous thromboembolism (blood clots in the leg and potentially fatal clots which travel to the lung) each year. This has led the Department of Health to make the prevention of this “silent killer” across the NHS a priority for the forthcoming years.

Preventing Blood Clots

You can help prevent blood clots if you:

  • Wear loose-fitting clothes, socks, or stockings.
  • Raise your legs 6 inches above your heart from time to time.
  • Wear special stockings (called compression stockings) if your doctor prescribes them.
  • Do exercises your doctor gives you.
  • Change your position often, especially during a long trip.
  • Do not stand or sit for more than 1 hour at a time.
  • Eat less salt.
  • Try not to bump or hurt your legs and try not to cross them.
  • Do not use pillows under your knees.
  • Raise the bottom of your bed 4 to 6 inches with blocks or books.
  • Take all medicines the doctor prescribes you.

Risk Factors

Estimated risk for developing a DVT (blood clot in the leg) or PE (blood clot in the lung):

Blood Clots: High Risk

  • Hospital stay
  • Major surgery, such as abdominal/pelvic surgery
  • Knee or hip replacement
  • Major trauma: automobile accident or fall
  • Nursing home living
  • Leg paralysis

Blood Slows: Moderate Risk

  • Older than age 65
  • Trips over 4 hours by plane, car, train, or bus
  • Active cancer/chemotherapy
  • Bone fracture or cast
  • Birth control pills, patch, or ring
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Pregnancy or recently gave birth
  • Prior blood clot or family history of clot
  • Heart failure
  • Bed rest over 3 days
  • Obesity
  • Genetic/hereditary or acquired blood clotting disorder

Blood Flows: Average Risk

  • Active
  • Younger than age 40
  • No history of blood clots in immediate family
  • No conditions or illnesses that heighten clotting risk

Practical Steps to Lower Your Risk for a Blood Clot

  • Ask your doctor about need for “blood thinners” or compression stockings to prevent clots, whenever you are admitted to the hospital
  • Lose weight, if you are overweight
  • Stay active
  • Exercise regularly; walking is fine
  • Avoid long periods of staying still
  • Get up and move around at least every hour whenever you travel on a plane, train, or bus, particularly if the trip is longer than 4 hours
  • Point and flex your toes and make circles with your feet if you cannot move around while sitting for prolonged periods to get your blood circulating
  • Stop at least every two hours when you drive, and get out and move around
  • Drink a lot of water and wear loose fitted clothing when you travel
  • Talk to your doctor about your risk of clotting whenever you take hormones, whether for birth control or replacement therapy, or during and right after any pregnancy
  • Follow any self-care measures to keep heart failure, diabetes, or any other health issues as stable as possible

Why Does It Take So Long To Fill My Prescription?

A pharmacist holding a tray of pills, surrounded by prescription drug bottles(BlackDoctor.org) — From the perspective of many patients dropping off prescriptions at a pharmacy, it seems like it would be an easy task for the pharmacist to quickly hand over the meds and allow the customer to be on their way.

Right?

Yes, this would be great. However, there are many processes, mostly unseen by the patient, that are in place that, unfortunately, often prevent prescriptions from being filled as quickly as we all would like.

In a perfect transaction, the patient already has a complete and updated profile at the pharmacy, the physician has written the prescription properly, the medication is in stock, and there are no problems with the patient’s insurance.

Unfortunately, there are many things that can happen along each of these steps to slow the prescription filling process.

Pharmacists Need To Verify All Information. The pharmacist’s top responsibility is to make sure that they do not harm the patient. So sometimes, it’s necessary to double check information to ensure that they’re providing the correct medication for the correct person. The pharmacist may need to contact the physician if a prescription is illegible or has a questionable dose.

Pharmacists Need To Make Sure The Meds Are Available. Sometimes medications are in short supply and the pharmacist must contact suppliers or other pharmacies to see when and if it they can be made available to the patient.

Pharmacists Need To Verify The Pill Bottle(s). After the prescription is actually filled, the pharmacist must then go back and double check the medication to make sure that what was written on the doctor’s prescription order matches the stock bottle and the pills that are in the patient’s bottle.

Pharmacists Need To Contact Insurance Companies. In the event that the patient’s insurance isn’t working properly, the pharmacist may also have to contact the company to see what the problem is.

Pharmacists Need To Help Multiple Patients/Physicians Simultaneously. In addition to all of this, pharmacists are also fielding phone calls from physicians and other patients in need of prescription help as well.

Pharmacists have to multitask for hours each day, but still must remain focused and calm to avoid any mistakes. While waiting a little longer may be inconvenient, it’s important to allow a bit of extra time to make sure that the pharmacist can exercise all of the checks and balances that goes into ensuring you get the right medication.

By Dr. Crystal Riley, BDO Pharmacy Expert

A graduate of the Howard University School of Pharmacy, Dr. Crystal A. Riley has spent the majority of her career involved in drug information services for not only healthcare organizations and practitioners, but for patients as well. While her career has shifted towards researching healthcare policy and quality standards, Dr. Riley still actively seeks opportunities to keep patients informed and aware of medication-related issues to help improve their overall quality of life.