Sitting for long periods while traveling increases risk of blood clots, which can be deadly; moving around can prevent them

Holiday travel often involves things you can’t control, such as delayed flights, traffic jams and inclement weather, but there is a health condition you can prevent just by getting up and moving around.

It’s called deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, and it’s associated with long periods of sitting while traveling, either by car or airplane. DVT occurs when a blood clot forms deep in a vein, most commonly in the legs. “The clot can travel unnoticed through the blood stream and lodge in the brain, lungs, heart and other areas causing severe damage to organs, and in some cases, death,” says a release from Houston Methodist Hospital.

“The last thing we think about when we are going to see loved ones for the holidays is DVT,” Alan Lumsden, chief of cardiovascular surgery at Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center, said in the release. “But it’s a very serious condition that can simply be avoided by getting up and moving around.”

Lumsden offers some tips to avoid DVT while traveling:

  • Get up and walk around at least every two hours
  • Don’t sleep more than four hours at a time
  • Stay hydrated
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes
  • Eat light meals and limit alcohol consumption
  • Wear compression stockings, especially if you have known circulation problems or are elderly
He also notes that if you aren’t able to get up every couple of hours, you should do the following exercises while sitting down.
  • Extend both legs and move both feet back and forth in a circular motion.
  • Move the knee up to the chest and hold the stretch for at least 15 seconds.
  • Put both feet on the floor and point them upward.
  • Put both feet flat and lift both heels as high as possible.

“Symptoms include pain and tenderness, swelling, redness, and increased warmth in one leg,” Lumsden said. “In some cases, a physician might suggest that a patient go on blood thinners or simply take an aspirin before and during a long trip to avoid DVT.”

About 2 million Americans are diagnosed with DVT every year and nearly 200,000 die, says the release. It is most common in those over 60, but can occur in any age group. Lumsden added that pregnant women and those who have a history of heart disease, cancer or blood clots should always consult with their health care provider before traveling long distances.

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