It’s the start of another holiday season! Before you hit the road with a trunk filled with presents and Bing Crosby queued up, let’s list some of the other important things to remember: Healthy snacks—check. GPS—check. Avoid drowsiness when driving—check. Know the signs of blood clots, huh?
Most travelers think of a variety of ways to be safe while traveling, but many don’t consider a blood clot as a real threat to one’s health. According to the National Blood Clot Alliance, “On average, 274 people die every day from blood clots, and one person dies every six minutes from a blood clot.”
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Typically, the body absorbs a blood clot, called a thromboembolism, but when a portion reaches the heart, lung, kidneys, or brain, it can block blood flow to vital organs. This leads to stroke, heart attack, organ damage—or death. Anyone is at risk of developing a blood clot. When you couple some of the more common conditions with sitting in a car for long periods of time, it can increase the risk of a blood clot forming.
As if growing old didn’t present enough challenges, people over 40 have a higher chance of a blood clot forming. Healthy living starts with adopting healthy habits. “Most people don’t think about it much when they are younger, but the habits we create at a young age influence our health later in life,” says Zachary Brown, administrator at Pointe Meadows Health and Rehabilitation. “It’s important to exercise regularly, avoid sugar and saturated fat, control prolonged stress, and get plenty of sleep.”
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Some healthy foods naturally increase the blood’s ability to coagulate. For example, foods that contain high levels of vitamin K, calcium, and niacin, such as leafy greens, dairy products, and certain types of meat and protein.
Remember: we want the blood to be able to coagulate. This is a lifesaving process that enables the body to repair a damaged blood vessel. But a diet that contains high levels of sodium, saturated fat, high carbohydrates, and cholesterol increases your blood’s propensity to coagulate. And that encourages the formation of blood clots. “It’s important to be mindful of hidden sodium in our favorite meals,” says Reddy Kavinesh, dietary manager at Redmond Heights Senior Living. “Along with an increased risk in developing blood clots, a diet high in sodium contributes to high blood pressure and other risk factors of heart disease.”
“About half of people with DVT have no symptoms at all,” wrote The Center for Disease Control. But they do recommend watching for the more common signs that include:
Unexplained pain or tenderness in your arms or legs.
Skin that is warm to the touch.
Redness of the skin.
If you have any of these symptoms, contact your doctor as soon as possible.
If you have a road trip planned, be sure to allow extra time to get out of the car and stretch your legs. Walk around, drink some water, or play frisbee for a few minutes. The goal is to the keep blood flow circulating.
When it’s time to hit the open road, knowing the risks and symptoms of a blood clot can keep you on the right track to your favorite destination—good health.
A version of this article was published by the Orange County Register.