Blood Clots In Your Legs -Are You At Risk?


A deep vein thrombosis of the right leg. Note ...

A deep vein thrombosis in right leg -notice swelling and redness - Image via Wikipedia

Blood Clots In Your Legs – Are You At Risk?

Blood clots (medical term is thrombus) in the legs can be a risk we all have.  The body is meant to move, not be sedentary.  The calf muscle in our legs acts like a pump, pushing the blood up the legs, back to the heart.  When we sit still for long period of time – that pump isn’t actively working and the blood can just sit there and clot.

Who is at risk?  Anyone that is sitting for extended periods of time.  Office workers, surfing the internet, anyone sitting on an airplane, riding in a car, train, bus or even being a “gamer” – someone who sits for long periods playing games on their Xbox for example.  Some people might sit 10-12 hours  playing these games competitively.  Recently there was a young man only 20 years old that died from sitting and playing games too long without getting up and moving around from time to time.

During the Golf  War in 2003, David Bloom, a 39 year old journalist with NBC that had been sleeping with legs propped up close to him during the quick dash into Iraq died from a clot.  Doctors indicated that the legs propped up close to the body with the legs immobilized while sleeping was probably a risk factor for the clot in Bloom’s case, they ate and slept in the vehicles.  In Bloom’s case, he called doctors who suggested he might have a clot and to get medical attention – he didn’t – he chose to take aspirins thinking it would take care of the problem.  It didn’t – he died.

You might think that you won’t get a clot unless you are sitting for hours on end – think again – the U.S. Dept of Health & Human Services suggests you can get a clot from sitting for an hour or more.

If you know you are going to be sitting for a while, first of all try not to cross your legs – that cuts off circulation.  Do leg exercises by extending your legs and then flexing the foot back and forth – this pumps the calves.  If you are on a plane or train get up and walk around the plane’s cabin or train car for 5 minutes every hour.  Don’t worry that people will be looking at you, more people are taking this seriously than ever before and you are serving as a good example.  If you are traveling in a car for more than an hour do your leg exercises in the car and make frequent stops.  Even if you stop at a restaurant – many people get out of the car, walk into the restaurant and sit down again.  Then get up after their meal walk a brief distance back to the car and sit again.  That may not be enough, that brief walking may have taken all of 2 minutes total time. Try to walk around for approximately five minutes if you want to avoid “travelers thrombosis”.  A good way to help with this is to park farther away from the restaurant entrance – it forces you to walk longer.

Consider gradient compression hose for women and men – gradient simply means that it has more pressure (tighter) around the ankle area and the pressure decreases as it goes up the leg.  These stockings and Travel Socks actually squeeze  the leg muscles and help to move the blood back towards the heart.  They aren’t thick and ugly any more.  Women’s come in ultra sheer thigh high styles and men’s knee highs come in colors.  Gradient compression hose and compression knee high Travel Socks can be purchased over the internet and in some drug stores without a prescription, some name brands are Jobst, Mediven, Juzo, Sigvaris and Scholl.  For most people 15-20 mmHg gradient pressure is sufficient, but if you have a special medical problem ask your doctor.  You will probably find that they make tired, achy legs and venous and lymphatic conditions feel better as well.  Make sure they are knee high for men, women also have thigh high available.

Many people today take Aspirin 81 mg for the heart – don’t be fooled into thinking this will prevent a clot in your legs – it won’t.  If going on a long trip and you have special medical issues like clotting problems or heart problems for example, tell your doctor ahead of time, he may want to put you on Coumadin (Warfarin), especially for a long international flight.

When at home in bed avoid putting pillows under your knees – some doctors see that as a risk.  Also, when watching tv, prop those legs up on a hassock whenever possible, or sit in a recliner – and get up at least every hour during a commercial and walk.  When going to the bathroom, consider walking to the farthest bathroom to get extra walk time in.

Additional Risk Factors for DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) and “Economy Class Syndrome” in the legs

  • Age 60 or older
  • Smoker
  • Have a pacemaker
  • Take estrogen or birth control pills
  • Recuperating from knee replacement or hip replacement.
  • Broken bones in the leg that require the patient not to put any pressure on the affected leg (therefore no calf action) – many doctors put patients on blood thinners.
  • Recuperating from a fractured hip
  • Varicose Veins
  • Lack of proper hydration – remember this in the dry southwest, and the air on airplanes is dry too!
  • Confined to bed or chair – watch how much time you spend in bed from a sprained back too.
  • Sit in a wheelchair, power chair or on a scooter for long periods

Seniors and the elderly particularly need to be aware of blood clots and their causes.  Seniors may be sitting much more because of arthritic knees, back pain, weak or shakey legs.  Seniors and elderly need to get up and walk and if they are a fall risk, they should use a walker. Using walkers with trays for transporting food and beverages from room to room, small items like folded laundry, putting groceries away, etc. can help the senior or elderly person to continue to have some exercise, help to ameliorate their fear of falling, help them to keep muscle strength in their legs and help prevent clots.  Why is a clot serious?  The clot can break away and travel to your lungs causing a life threatening condition called pulmonary embolism, or travel to other areas of the body such as the heart causing death.  There are other medically related factors such as clotting irregularities, cancer medications and more that may have an effect on clotting – always discuss with your doctor.

NOTE: Scholl Flight Socks 14-17 mmHg – “effective at significantly reducing the incidence of DVT in low-medium risk subjects, in long haul flights”   Angiology 2002, Nov-Dec; “Prevention of edema, flight microangiopathy and venous thrombosis in long flights with elastic stockings. A randomized trial

Modern Senior Products LLC  http://www.modernseniorproducts.com offers senior products, independent living aids and gifts for seniors.  Read our BLOG for health, medical and independent living information.

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About dsm49

I am the CEO of Modern Senior Products LLC, based in Arizona. I am a graduate of the University of Cincinnati. I spend a lot of time researching health, fitness and technology for my company. We specialize in senior products and gifts for seniors, offering phones for hearing loss, whether due to service in the military, age related or other reasons, also phones for vision and memory loss. We offer S.O.S. Alert Phones, tv assistive listening devices, hearing protection and garden tools for those with arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome. We also offer exercise & rehab equipment. You can find us at http://www.modernseniorproducts.com

Posted on August 2, 2011, in Exercise, Health & Diet, Heart Disease, Joint Replacement, Knee and Hip Replacement, Travel and Seniors, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Thanks for taking the time to write up this article. My blog, tibtips, is written for the older generation who are more sedentary. I want to find a way to link to this article if I can figure out how.

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