As the third most common cardiovascular disease after heart attack and stroke, blood clots are extremely serious. Each year in the United States, different kinds of blood clots claim more than 100,000 lives – yet many seniors don’t know how to prevent blood clots. Find out how several simple lifestyle changes can dramatically reduce your risk of blood clots as you get older.
How to Prevent Blood Clots
Understanding Blood Clots
There are two main types of blood clots, both of which are considered medical emergencies that require immediate care:
- Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): The Society for Vascular Surgery describes deep vein thrombosis as an abnormal clotting of the blood in a deep vein, generally in the leg or pelvis.
- Pulmonary Embolism (PE): When a DVT breaks free from its original site in a vein, it can travel through the bloodstream into the lungs. This is known as a pulmonary embolism, a very serious condition that can damage the organs and cause stroke or death. Each year, pulmonary emboli kill more Americans than breast cancer, AIDS, and traffic accidents combined.
Blood Clot Risk Factors
The first step in preventing blood clots is identifying blood clot risk factors. Are you worried that you may be at risk of developing a blood clot? There are several risk factors to be aware of:
- Recent major surgery
- Hospitalization with an acute medical illness
- Major leg trauma or injury
- Cancer and cancer treatment
- Previous blood clot
- Family history of blood clot
- Long periods of immobility
- Use of hormone replacement therapy
Staying Active to Prevent Blood Clots
If you have one or more blood clot risk factors, prevention is key. Staying active is an important part of preventing blood clots. You should strive for regular exercise like walking, jogging, or water aerobics, and try to avoid long periods of immobility. This includes staying still while traveling. If you are able, try to get up and move around at least every hour whenever you travel on a plane, train, or bus. If you’re not able to stand, point and flex your toes and make circles with your feet to get your blood circulating.
Working with Your Doctor to Prevent Clots
There are several other blood clot prevention techniques you should address with your doctor. First, talk to your doctor about any blood clot risks you may have in your personal health or family history. If you are at risk, you should also consider asking your doctor about taking blood thinners or using compression stockings to prevent clots. Finally, work with your doctor on an ongoing care plan to manage any other conditions like heart disease or diabetes, both of which can increase your risk of blood clots.
Blood Clot Symptoms
While serious, blood clots can be treatable if identified early. The symptoms of the two primary types of blood clots are similar, but there are a few distinctions. Pulmonary embolism (PE) symptoms include recent or sudden shortness of breath, blue lips or nail beds, sharp chest pain when breathing in, excessive sweating, coughing up blood, and sudden collapse. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) symptoms include pain, swelling and tenderness in one of your legs, a heavy ache in the affected area, warm skin in the area of the clot, and red skin, particularly at the back of your leg below the knee.
Blood clots are serious, but there are several easy lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk. As you approach retirement, make sure to stay active, healthy, and vigilant when it comes to health issues like blood clots, and always check with your doctor before beginning a new care regimen.
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