Blood clots in the veins, particularly those that break off and travel to the lungs, can be fatal and have become increasingly so. In fact, one in three Blacks has at least one variant that increases their risk making them 30 to 60 percent more likely to suffer from the condition known as venous thromboembolism (VTE). Yet many adults know little about their risks or the growing evidence that healthy habits can help prevent clots.
“A key barrier in the United States is that awareness of this disease is not very good,” Dr. Mary Cushman says.
What is VTE?
VTE includes two types of clots: deep vein thrombosis, called DVT, usually in the leg, and pulmonary embolism, or PE, which is when a DVT breaks free and lodges in the lungs, where they often are fatal. There were roughly 370,000 PE and 857,000 DVT events in the United States in 2016, the last year for which statistics were available, according to American Heart Association estimates.
7 Lifestyle changes to prevent VTE
There are a number of lifestyle changes you can make to prevent yourself from developing VTE. The seven metrics, known as the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 include:
- smoking status
- total cholesterol
- diet score
- blood pressure
- fasting glucose
- physical activity
However, “not all of these habits confer the same benefit,” Dr. Peter Henke, a vascular surgeon says.
The importance of tackling obesity
Cushman, medical director of the Thrombosis and Hemostasis Program at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington, has spent years researching the impact of obesity and other lifestyle factors on these clots.
Her work shows some of that risk can be lowered through lifestyle changes. Her most recent study, published in the journal “Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis”, and “Vascular Biology”, measured the impact of seven metrics for cardiovascular health on people at high genetic risk for VTE. It found a strong association between two of those metrics, higher physical activity and ideal body weight, and a lower incidence of