Sitting still too long when traveling and prolonged immobility due to surgery or illness can increase your risk for blood clots in the lower leg, thigh or pelvis.
Symptoms for this condition, called deep vein thrombosis (DVT), may include leg pain or swelling, although there may be no symptoms at all. Other risk factors include cancer, injury, pregnancy, age or inherited clotting disorders. Should the clot travel to the lungs causing a pulmonary embolism, the results are generally fatal.
“Deep vein thrombosis is a very serious and potentially life-threatening condition,” said vascular surgeon Kara Kvilekval, MD. “It is very important that you move around when traveling. If you can’t get up, exercise your calf muscles as you are sitting.”
To help prevent DVT, healthcare professionals recommend the following:
- Exercise regularly – Walk, bike, swim, follow a regular exercise program.
- Quit smoking – Smoking increases your risk of DVT.
- Lose weight – Obesity also increases your risk of DVT.
- Check your blood pressure at least once a year.
- Follow a healthy diet – This will help control high blood pressure and help you lose weight.
- Take all prescribed medications – Following surgery or during a period of bed rest your risk of DVT may increase. Your physician may prescribe a blood thinner/anti-coagulant.
- Move around when traveling – If you’re on a plane flight for more than four hours, or waiting for a connection between flights, get up and walk around. The same goes for a long car ride. Take the opportunity to stop, stretch and walk. If you can’t get up from your seat, stretch your legs and flex your feet regularly. Avoid crossing your legs, which can limit blood flow.
- Stay hydrated – Drink plenty of fluids. Avoid coffee and alcohol, which can cause dehydration. That narrows veins thickens blood, increasing your clot risk
For more information watch this video from the Society for Clinical Vascular Surgery: