7 Things You Should Know About Blood Clots

doctor-patientMiami Heat star forward Chris Bosh was recently diagnosed with blood clots in his lung, and will miss the remainder of the season, according to team and NBA officials.

Almost every celebrity who has developed blood clots hasn’t been as fortunate. Former Portland Trail Blazers forward Jerome Kersey died last month after a blood clot in his leg traveled to his lung, causing a fatal pulmonary embolism. And a pulmonary embolism caused by a blood clot is what killed rapper and actor Heavy D three years ago.

Blood clots, also known as deep vein thrombosis or DVT, form mainly in the deep veins of the pelvis and legs and can break off and travel through the bloodstream to the lungs. This can result in a blockage in blood flow, organ damage and even death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 300,000 to 600,000 people in the United States are affected by DVT each year, and the condition kills between 60,000 and 100,000 people.

Traditional risk factors for developing deep vein thrombosis include prolonged immobility–such as occurs on long flights or car rides–as well as muscle or bone injury; recent surgery; chronic illnesses, including cancer, heart disease and inflammatory bowel disease; increased estrogen due to pregnancy, birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy; obesity; and a family history.

Here’s how to ward off DVT:

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  • If you are on a long plane ride (more than four hours), get up out of your seat at least once every two hours to walk and stretch your legs. If you can’t walk, keep your legs active. Raise and lower your heels while keeping your toes on the floor. Raise and lower your toes while keeping your heels on the floor. Tighten and release your leg muscles. This helps stimulate blood flow.
  • Avoid sleeping pills on long flights as they prevent you from contracting your leg muscles, leading to sluggish blood flow in your legs and increasing your risk for developing DVT.
  • On a flight, put your belongings in the overhead bin instead of under your seat. This will allow you to stretch your legs and prevent blood from pooling in your lower extremities.
  • Wear compression stockings (available over the counter or by prescription) if you have ever had a previous blood clot and are traveling by plane. Some NBA teams give players compression shorts to wear on long flights. If you are at risk of developing DVT, talk to your doctor about anticoagulant medication.
  • Move around as soon as possible after having been confined to bed, such as after surgery, illness or injury.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • If you develop leg swelling, redness, calf tenderness (symptoms of DVT), difficulty breathing chest discomfort, irregular heartbeat, coughing up blood and lightheadedness (signs of pulmonary embolism), seek immediate medical attention.
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