Blood clots affect 900,000 Americans each year, and cause 100,000 premature deaths. What makes blood clots especially dangerous is that they can happen to anyone, they’re often difficult to detect, and they can cause sudden death without warning. Understanding blood clot risks and prevention can help keep you safe.
Venous thromboembolism, deep vein thrombosis, and pulmonary embolism
Venous thromboembolism (VTE) includes blood clots occurring as deep vein thrombosis (DVT), pulmonary embolism (PE), or both.
Deep vein thrombosis refers to blood clotting in a deep vein. DVT typically develops in the lower leg, thigh, or pelvic area. Deep vein blood clots can also occur in the arm, however. DVT can permanently damage the valves in the veins. This is called post-thrombotic syndrome (PTS). Post-thrombotic syndrome can cause a number of symptoms including discoloration, pain, or swelling in the affected area.
A pulmonary embolism (PE) occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery in your lungs. This usually occurs when a DVT blood clot breaks or becomes detached, travels through the blood stream and becomes lodged in the pulmonary artery or its branches. This blocks blood flow to the lungs. Pulmonary embolism can cause permanent lung damage or death.
Blood clot risk factors
Nearly anyone can develop a blood clot. Certain factors increase a persons risk for DVT or PE, however. Here are a few things that increase your risk for developing blood clots.
- Blood clot risk increases with age
- A personal or family history of blood clots
- Bone fractures, severe muscle injury, or other incidents that damage veins.
- Decreased blood flow from things such as bed rest, sitting for long periods of time, and limited movement or paralysis.
- Increased estrogen levels
- Heart and lung disease
- Certain types of cancer and cancer treatment
- Certain bowel diseases
Having a combination of these factors greatly increases your risk for VTE, and 30% of people who have had a blood clot are at risk for having another.
Half of all blood clots are related to hospitalization or surgery. People recovering from surgery, people who have recently been hospitalized, and people being treated for cancer are at a higher risk for blood clots. Blood clots that develop as a result of healthcare treatment are known as healthcare-associated venous thromboembolism.
Ways to help prevent blood clots from forming
Blood clots can happen to practically anyone, and they’re difficult to detect. There are a few things that can help decrease your risk for blood clots.
A healthy lifestyle can help reduce your risk for blood clots. Manage a healthy weight and stay active. Regular physical activity is extremely important. Blood clots form when blood pools in the veins, and staying active is a good way to keep this from happening.
Always make a point to move around, especially if you’ve been sitting for an extended period of time. Move around after surgery, injury, or bed rest as soon as you’re able. Get up and move around on long plane rides, stop and stretch your legs out at rest stops on long road trips. Walk around a bit at work to keep blood from pooling in your legs.
Compression socks or compression stockings can help prevent blood clots from forming, and your doctor may prescribe you with anticoagulant medication.
The CDC and National Blood Clot Alliance put together this blood clot prevention plan.
It’s absolutely necessary that you talk to your doctor and establish a plan if you’re at a higher risk for blood clots. Schedule an appointment with a MANA physician today.