Our blood is designed to clot. Clotting prevents you from losing large amounts of blood after cutting yourself shaving or scraping your knee. But not all blood clots are created equal. While some blood clots break themselves up after the job is done, others can linger and lead to serious medical conditions. About 350,000 Americans are diagnosed with serious blood clots each year – fortunately, this condition is far from inevitable. Scroll down to find out how to prevent blood clots as you navigate your senior years.
How to Prevent Blood Clots
Understanding Blood Clots
While some blood clots are harmless, others can cause serious health problems and (in severe cases) even death. A deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, is a common form of blood clot that typically forms in your leg. DVTs might not sound serious, but they can partially or completely block blood flow back to your heart – damaging your veins or even traveling to major organs, like your lungs. While DVTs are treatable, about one in 10 DVT patients dies from DVT complications. This is why it is especially important to prevent and quickly treat cases of DVT.
Know the Risk Factors
There are several risk factors that can promote the development of blood clots in seniors. Knowing these risk factors is an important step in preventing blood clots:
- Major surgical intervention
- Cancer treatment
- Major trauma or injuries to the leg
- Personal or family history of blood clots
- Recent immobility, such as wheelchair confinement
- Use of hormone replacement therapy
Preventing Blood Clots
If you are in a risk group for developing blood clots, there are several measures you can take to protect yourself. Work with your doctor to develop a blood clot prevention plan, which may include several common strategies:
- Maintain a healthy weight: Obesity is a common risk factor for harmful blood clots. If your weight is in the obese range, consider working with your doctor to shed a few extra pounds.
- Stay active: Blood clots are common in highly sedentary individuals. Do your best to get moving, with an emphasis on walking and other light cardio activities.
- Travel carefully: Blood clots can form during expended periods of travel. If you find yourself on a plane, train, or bus, do your best to get up and move around at least every hour. You should also stop at least every two hours while driving, taking a moment to get up and move around.
- Check your medications: Certain medications can cause blood clots, including those for hormone replacement therapy during or after menopause. If you are concerned about the possibility of blood clots, talk to your doctor about switching to another medication.
Treating Blood Clots
If you are diagnosed with a blood clot, you have several treatment options at your disposal. Severe blood clots like DVTs are typically treated with anticoagulants, or “blood thinners.” These stop clots from growing and prevent new clots from forming. Some doctors will also prescribe external measures like compression stockings, which prevent blood from pooling and clotting, in an effort to protect your veins and reduce long-term pain and swelling.
The numbers don’t lie – around 350,000 Americans are diagnosed with severe blood clots each year, many of which had no idea before they were diagnosed. Fortunately, there are a number of measures you can take right now to prevent blood clots, including maintaining a healthy weight and prioritizing an active lifestyle. If you have questions about how to prevent blood clots, make sure to speak with your doctor to develop a prevention plan.
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