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Avoid Developing Dangerous Blood Clots in Your Legs

Deep vein thrombosis (also known as DVT) is the name of the condition in which an unwanted clot forms in a large blood vessel (usually one of the veins in the legs).

Sometimes, these clots spontaneously and harmlessly break down over time, but they can be fatal in certain circumstances. Specifically, these clots can migrate to other, smaller blood vessels and eventually become lodged in the lungs.

If this occurs, the lungs do not have an adequate blood supply and severe respiratory distress follows. DVT is often talked about as a hazard of long-haul flights, but it is actually a hazard of any long journey. If you are traveling for more than five hours, you must be aware of the following measures that can help you to minimize the likelihood of developing a dangerous blood clot.

older woman stretches her legs after sitting for a long time
Stretching your legs can reduce the risk of blood clots

Do clenching exercises

While you are sitting, regularly clench and relax the muscles in your calves and thighs. If you do this around twenty times each session, you will be substantially boosting your circulation and reducing the likelihood that any blood clots will form.

Elevate your legs

The higher you keep your legs, the better the circulation in those limbs will be. Ideally, you should have your legs slightly higher than your heart. If you are traveling on a quiet train or plane, you can try lying down on a group of empty seats. If this is not an option, use any footrests that are provided, or use your luggage to create a makeshift footrest.

Stay hydrated

When traveling, this means that you have to drink even more water than is normally advisable, as traveling often involves long periods spent in dry atmospheres (especially when you are on a plane or a train). If you are not adequately hydrated, this leads to thicker blood, and thicker blood is more likely to form unwanted clots.

Use compression stockings

Sometimes called 'flight socks', these are supposed to help promote better circulation in your legs when you are sitting for long periods of time. However, you should always ask for the assistance of a doctor or pharmacist when you are buying compression stockings.

This is because overly tight stockings can actually make your circulation worse, while slack stockings will simply have no impact at all.

Take every opportunity to walk

If you are traveling in a car, this means stopping for regular breaks and getting out to stretch your legs. If you are on a plane, train or bus, this means briskly walking up and down the aisles as often as you can.

The sluggish circulation that raises your risk of blood clots is usually a result of lengthy periods of inactivity, so never underestimate the usefulness of these regular walks. Take this into consideration when picking a seat on any form of public transportation, as it is easier to get up and walk around if you are in an aisle seat.

Avoid alcohol

Don't drink alcohol before or during your journey. Alcoholic drinks dehydrate your body, and dehydration increases the likelihood of clots due to its thickening influence on the blood.

Further, dry atmospheres are ones in which becoming dehydrated is more of a problem, so alcohol will have an even worse impact on your hydration than it would under normal circumstances.

Consider taking aspirin

Depending on the length of your journey and on facts about your general health, approach your doctor about whether you should take aspirin before you travel. Some healthcare professionals believe that aspirin's blood-thinning influence is sufficient to lower the likelihood of dangerous blood clots.

Avoid common habits that cut circulation

Position yourself so that your legs are not tightly pressed against the hard edge of your seat, and avoid sitting with your legs crossed. If your blood vessels are pressed against anything in these ways, your circulation is slowed and your blood is at a greater risk of clotting.

Do foot exercises

While sitting, regularly move your feet. The best exercise for this involves alternately pointing your heel and then your toe down towards the ground with decisive and fast movements.

Flex your knees

Regularly lift your knees up and pull them in so that they are as close to your chest as your physical fitness allows. This is another exercise that boosts your circulation, and it thereby helps to ward off the formation of clots.

Do standing exercises whenever possible

Whenever you do get a chance to walk, do more intense leg exercises. On a train or plane, these can be done in the restroom if you feel self-conscious. March on the spot for up to thirty steps, lifting your knees up as high as you can, then move on to alternately balance on your heels and toes while rocking back and forth.


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