Top 5 Ways to Prevent a DVT from Forming

Top 5 ways to prevent dvt

An article published by Harvard Health states, “When it comes to under-the-radar health conditions, deep-vein thrombosis is at the top of the list. Most [of my] patients have never heard of this common problem. Yet deep-vein thrombosis puts more than one-quarter million Americans in the hospital each year, and complications from it are responsible for upwards of 100,000 deaths.” Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT is a term for a blood clot that forms deep within the leg veins, but one can also form in the pelvis, arm or other areas. Some DVT’s cause pain, swelling and redness; yet others cause no symptoms at all, which can make prevention all too difficult. I had no idea what a DVT was until I was diagnosed with one in June of 2012 after a piece of the clot broke free from behind my knee and lodged in my left lung, causing a pulmonary embolism or PE. A PE, or blood clot that lodges in the lung, is particularly dangerous because it can be fatal and in fact, almost all DVT-related deaths are a result of PE. While I had no symptoms of a DVT except pain, which I attributed to a running injury, if I had been aware of this injury and its consequences, I may have been able to prevent the PE, which was indeed life threatening. DVT can cause life-altering and lifelong consequences including lifelong treatment medications such as blood thinners and over 40 percent of those diagnosed with DVT, suffer from post-phlebitis syndrome (PTS) as a result of permanent damage to the vein, which causes persistent leg pain, swelling, darkened skin, and sometimes hard-to-heal skin ulcers. Prevention of DVT is preferable to treatment, read on to learn the top 5 ways to prevent a DVT from forming.

In order to prevent DVT, it is first important to understand your risk for DVT. While DVT can affect anyone, there are certain risk factors that put some people at a greater risk than others. These risk factors can include and are listed in order from high risk to moderate risk (Stop the Clot):

  • Hospital stay
  • Major surgery such as abdominal or pelvic surgery
  • Knee or hip replacement
  • Major trauma such as an auto accident or fall
  • Nursing home living
  • Leg paralysis
  • Older than 65 years
  • Trips over four hours by plane, car, train or bus
  • Active cancer or chemotherapy treatment
  • Bone fracture or cast
  • Birth control pills, patch or ring
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Pregnancy or a recent birth
  • Prior blood clot or family history of blood clots
  • Heart failure
  • Bed rest over three days
  • Obesity
  • Genetic/hereditary or acquired blood clotting disorder

In a nutshell, you are at increased risk if you or a close family member have had a blood clot before; you have had recent major surgery; you have an inherited clotting condition; have cancer; are immobile for a long time (confined to bed, long-duration plane or car trip, etc.), or use birth control pills. It’s important to understand your own personal risk and also that anyone can develop a DVT at any time.

There are some definite ways we can all work to prevent DVTs before they become something that needs treated.

Top 5 Ways to Prevent a DVT from Forming

  1. Get or stay physically active. Whether you are at work or at home, get up from your chair frequently and move around. Short walks contract the muscles in your legs that help pump blood back toward your heart. If you’re at work, walk to the restroom farther away from your desk, take the stairs after lunch or offer to hand deliver a memo instead of dropping in in a mailbox. If you’re relaxing at home watching TV at night, get up from time to time and walk to the kitchen and back, even if you don’t necessarily need something. If you are traveling by plane, get up frequently and walk around as best you can. If you are driving long distances, stop every couple of hours to walk around whether it be at a rest stop or restaurant. Park a little farther out from your stops and walk in when you do. If you’re ordering fast food on a road trip, skip the drive through and walk inside for a meal. While exercise in the initial stages of recovery from a DVT is difficulty and often disheartening to attempt, incorporate a walk into your day as best you can, if only for five or ten minutes to start; then work up to 30 minutes a day.
  2. Stay hydrated. Water is your body’s principal chemical component and makes up about 60 percent of your body weight. Every system in your body depends on water. For example, water flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to your cells and provides a moist environment for ear, nose and throat tissues. This is especially important if you are going to be sitting or traveling for long periods of time. If you’re at work, sip water between phone calls, walk to the drinking fountain or break room every hour to refill your glass or make a goal of how many water bottles you would like to consume in a given day. Generally you should be drinking enough water to not feel thirsty and produce light colored urine throughout the day and the exact amount of water needing consumed can vary from one individual to the next. The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake for men is roughly 3 liters (about 13 cups) of total beverages a day. The adequate intake for women is 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) of total beverages a day. If you’re concerned about your fluid intake or have health issues, check with your doctor or a registered dietitian. He or she can help you determine the amount of water that’s right for you.
  3. Move your legs. If you are bedridden and can’t take frequent walks (such as during a hospital stay or during the early stages of recovery), contracting your leg muscles will help prevent blood from pooling and clotting, which is important. Even small movements can make a huge difference. If you are in the hospital, make sure the nursing staff regularly helps you move your legs to help prevent blood clotting. If possible, bend then back and forth, lift them up an down and rotate your ankles. Any movement in the lower extremities when bedridden or immobile is helpful.
  4. Maintain a healthy body weight. Remember, obesity increases the risk of DVT. It is important to exercise, hydrate and eat whole, clean foods that are non-processed and low in sugar. If you need help losing or maintaining a healthy weight, there are countless programs, plans and support systems available to you. Be sure to discuss your weight-loss options and what is the best course of action for you with your doctor.
  5. Be proactive if you are hospitalized. If you are hospitalized for some reason, ask your doctors and nurses to make sure you are receiving measures—such as wearing special stockings, getting low-dose heparin or getting leg exercise—to prevent blood clots. Make sure your family members or caregivers are aware of the possibility of blood clots so they can ask for this care in the event you are unable to or forget.

Share your story. What steps do you take to prevent a DVT from forming? Do any of the risk factors listed above apply to you that you may not have known about previously? Were you aware of the risks for DVT?

There is hope for healing and you are not alone,