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Traveling: Don’t Want Blood Clots? Keep Moving!

car rideOn top of being a health fanatic, I am passionate about traveling. I love traveling to different places and immersing myself in their cultures. However, that can sometimes mean many hours of sitting in a car or in a plane in order to reach a remote locale. Not only can prolonged sitting be uncomfortable, it can also put you at increased risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which is a blood clot in one of the deep veins, usually in the legs.

Why does prolonged sitting cause blood clots?
Contraction of your leg muscles, especially your calf muscles, is essential in helping your blood to circulate. When you sit for long periods with your legs in one position, your circulation slows, potentially causing the blood to pool and form a blood clot. Half of the time, individuals who experience DVT have no signs or symptoms. But those who do, often experience leg pain, change in skin color (usually red or blue), swelling and/or warmth in the leg area. Even though your chance of getting a blood clot in one or more of your deep veins with prolonged traveling is still relatively low, your risk goes up if you have certain risk factors. Some risk factors include: pregnancy, recent surgery or trauma, obesity, limited mobility, some cancers, inflammatory bowel disease, being a smoker, having a history of DVT, having a pacemaker, being over 60 or being a tall men. These risk factors can affect your blood flow and the clotting of your blood, increasing your risk.

Why are blood clots harmful?
DVT should not be taken lightly. If a blood clot in your leg dislodges and travels through your bloodstream and lodges itself in a blood vessel in your lungs, it can block blood flow, becoming life threatening. A blood clot in your lung is called a pulmonary embolism. If you suddenly experience difficulty breathing, chest pain or discomfort that increases with deep breaths, feel lightheaded, faint or dizzy, have an increased pulse rate, are sweating and/or coughing up blood, you may be experiencing a pulmonary embolism. Obviously, you should seek medical attention immediately.

How can I prevent blood clots when traveling?
Fortunately, it is easy to reduce your chance of getting a blood clot while traveling. Here are 5 things you can do to improve your blood circulation and prevent the complications that occur due to immobility:

  1. Move: If you are on a plane, try to get an aisle seat, so that you can get up and walk periodically. At least once every hour is ideal. And if you are driving, stop periodically to get out and walk around.
  2. Contract your leg muscles: If you are unable to leave your seat, do some seated exercises to promote blood circulation. There are some simple calf, ankle and leg exercises that you can do from the comfort of your seat. For example, raise and lower your toes, tap your heels and toes, do ankle circles, extend and flex your legs and reposition yourself in your seat. Do these movements as often as possible during your flight or car ride to keep your blood from clotting.
  3. Don’t cross your legs: This prevents optimum blood flow, reducing circulation of your blood.
  4. Keep hydrated: Drink lots of water and stay away from alcohol, which can promote dehydration and increase your risk of blood clots.
  5. Talk to your doctor: If you have a medical condition that increases your risk of blood clots, your doctor may suggest compression stockings or other modalities to reduce your risk of developing DVT.

The bottom line:
Sometimes, traveling can result in prolonged periods of immobility. This immobility can put you at risk of blood clots. Luckily, follow just a few simple tips can dramatically reduce your risk of blood clots. So, be proactive and don’t let a blood clot ruin your vacation!

Sources: Mayo Clinic

Comments (1)

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  1. Isabel van Sunder says:

    These are very good exercises to do whenever you are traveling for some hours. I do them whenever I travel for my varicose and spider veins problem. It works.

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