The Silent Killer In Your Veins
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.
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
- Genetic/hereditary or acquired blood clotting disorder
Blood Flows: Average Risk
- 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