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Take a walk to prevent deep vein thrombosis

Consumer Reports News: July 07, 2009 05:38 PM

If you’re flying to your next vacation spot this summer—taking a walk during your flight could save your life. A new study released in today’s Annals of Internal Medicine suggests a heightened risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) during long-distance travel. DVT happens when a vein your leg gets partly or completely blocked by a blood clot, which can lead to swelling, pain, a pulmonary embolism, or death.

Sitting or lying for long periods, like as on a long flight, can cause DVT. However, you’re at a higher risk if you’re older, overweight, or have cancer, problems with clotting, or varicose veins. Pregnant women and women taking birth control pills are also vulnerable to DVT.

Seek medical attention immediately if you experience DVT symptoms—the main symptom is a swollen, painful leg. If you’re traveling on an airplane, notify the airline staff. To prevent DVT while traveling, experts recommend you:

  • Don't take sleeping pills.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation.
  • Exercise your legs while seated. Bend and straighten your legs, feet and toes while sitting down, every half hour. Make a circle pattern with each foot in turn. The American Council on Exercise recommends ankle rotations and foot lifts to keep your blood flowing.
  • Press the balls of your feet down hard against the floor or a footrest to increase the blood flow in your legs.
  • Take short walks around the airplane’s cabin.

Ginger Skinner

Find out if you're at risk for deep vein thrombosis, and see our Treatment Ratings (subscribers only) to find out if compression stockings help.

Image: Robert Scoble

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