Monday, November 21, 2011

It's holiday travel time, are you avoiding DVT?

     Over the river and through the woods means long hours spent driving or flying for many of us. Travel is hassle enough, but did you know that when you slow or change the flow of blood in your veins, you could develop deep vein thrombosis (DVT)? DVT is a clot that forms within a deep vein inside the body—usually the leg. Cathy Ware, BSN and vascular specialist at Meritus Medical Center, says inactivity is a common thread in DVT cases. Aside from traveling in cramped conditions for too long, here are other risk factors:

  • Prolonged bed rest 
  • Recent surgery 
  • Cigarette smoking 
  • Having a baby in the last six months 
  • Heart failure 
  • Obesity 
  • Blood that’s more likely to clot 
  • Taking estrogen or birth control pills 
  • Cancer 

     DVT becomes life-threatening when a piece of the blood clot breaks off and travels upward to the lung, causing a pulmonary embolism (PE). A PE is serious stuff because it causes low oxygen levels in your blood and can damage other organs. Swelling, pain, tenderness, increased warmth, and skin color changes in the leg are signs of DVT, but some people have no symptoms.

The possibility of having a DVT but not having any symptoms sounds a little scary, doesn’t it?

     Here’s the good news. You can decrease your risk of DVT by being more aware. If you’re coming off surgery, or laid up with the flu, keep your legs moving—even if it means drawing your name in the air with your foot – plus, raising your legs while laying down gives your core a workout. :) It’s also a good idea to stay hydrated.

Here are other ways to keep the blood flowing in your legs:
  • Whenever possible, get up and walk around. 
  • While seated, raise and lower your heels while keeping your toes on the floor. 
  • Flex your feet. Raise and lower your toes while keeping your heels on the floor. 

     So keep moving, friends—even if it means doing a little Jingle Bell Rock in the airport this holiday season. If you’re travelling with a group, maybe you could start a flash mob like these folks in Denver.

By Anne Gill

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