When you take a long trip, you want to get up and stretch your legs, right? Besides keeping you from feeling stiff and sore, this simple act can also lower your risk of having a blood clot, a potentially dangerous health problem.
Blood clots and travel can be linked, especially if you have certain risk factors. By learning some basic facts and tips, you can make sure you stay healthy and keep your risk of blood clots low.
What Is a Blood Clot?
Blood clots form normally when you injure a blood vessel, like from a cut or bruise. To keep you from losing too much blood, small pieces of cells, called platelets, stick together to form a clot. Once you have healed, your blood clot usually dissolves on its own.
Clotting helps your body heal itself, but some medical conditions, behaviors, and situations can cause dangerous blood clots to form. This can be life-threatening if a clot moves and blocks blood flow to your brain, heart, or lungs.
Travel and Blood Clot Risks
Trips of four hours or more — whether they’re by plane, boat, train, bus, or car — can raise your risk of having a blood clot. While you sit, the blood flow in your legs slows down, making it more likely to form a blood clot.
Whether you’re flying halfway around the world or driving across the state, it’s a good idea to get up and move around during your trip. Overall, most people have a low risk of forming a blood clot from travel, but some factors can raise your risk. These include:
- Age of 65 or older
- Recent surgery or injury
- Using birth control pills or estrogens
- A personal or family history of blood clots
- Cancer or cancer treatment
You can do simple things to keep your blood flowing and your risks low. On your next trip:
- Get up and move around at least every two hours or so; if you’re driving, stop for a few minutes, get out of the car, and walk around
- Stay hydrated the day before your travel and during the trip
- Drink plenty of water, and avoid alcohol and caffeine
- Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes
- Avoid crossing your legs
Exercises to Keep Your Blood Flowing
- Toe raise: keep your heels on the floor and raise your toes up off the floor
- Heel raise: keep your toes on the floor and raise your heels up off the floor
- Ankle flex: move your legs straight out in front of you, flex your ankles, pointing your toes toward you
- Knee to chest: bring your knee up to your chest and hold it there for 15 seconds then repeat with your other knee
It’s important to manage your health and minimize your risk of blood clots. Doing so can help you to avoid many health problems down the line.
Have you had your blood and cholesterol levels checked recently? Schedule an appointment with the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute to get screened today.