Keep mov­ing to limit risk of blood clots

Peo­ple are aware of clot risks from long-haul flights, but Mar­garet Jen­nings stresses that the chances of de­vel­op­ing one in daily life are still sig­nif­i­cant

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Ageing With Attitude -

YOU’RE on that long-haul flight, to­tally ab­sorbed in your en­ter­tain­ment sys­tem and be­fore you know it, you have landed at your des­ti­na­tion. But how of­ten have you got up to move around — apart from go­ing to the loo?

The need to flex our limbs while 35,000ft above the Earth’s sur­face is a rel­a­tively fa­mil­iar sce­nario we as­so­ciate with keep­ing the risk of get­ting a clot at bay. Even at that, though, how many of us put that ad­vice into prac­tice? And did you know that even with our feet firmly on the ground, we can be at risk of get­ting dif­fer­ent types of clots?

For in­stance, our risk in­creases con­sid­er­ably as we get older; from the age of 40 on­wards, it dou­bles with each sub­se­quent decade.

“World­wide, one in four peo­ple die from causes re­lated to throm­bo­sis or blood clots,” says Dr Tomás Bres­lin, con­sul­tant in emer­gency medicine at Dublin’s Mater Hos­pi­tal.

“Blood clots can form in the two ma­jor dif­fer­ent types of blood ves­sels in the body — the ar­ter­ies and veins.”

Clots in ar­ter­ies re­sult in heart at­tacks and strokes. A clot in the vein — usu­ally in the leg or pelvis — is known as a deep vein throm­bo­sis (DVT). Then a clot that breaks off and trav­els to the lungs is known as a pul­monary em­bolism (PE). To­gether, DVT and PE make up ve­nous throm­boem­bolism (VTE).

“In Ire­land, it is es­ti­mated that up to 4,000 peo­ple die from VTE ev­ery year, and many of these deaths are preventable,” says Bres­lin.

Apart from be­ing more at risk as we age, clots can also oc­cur as a re­sult of can­cer, de­hy­dra­tion, be­ing over­weight, smok­ing and, of course, fam­ily his­tory, or ge­net­ics.

But an­other sig­nif­i­cant DVT risk fac­tor, he says, is be­ing im­mo­bile for a pro­longed pe­riod, in par­tic­u­lar, not mov­ing our legs. That’s where the long-haul flights come in. But it can also hap­pen if we are sit­ting or ly­ing in any en­vi­ron­ment: “A long stretch of time with bent legs can kink the veins and stop the flow of blood through them,” he tells Feel­good.

Some of the symp­toms in­clude pain; swelling and ten­der­ness in the calf muscle; swelling of the whole leg; red­ness of the area; di­la­tion of the sur­face veins and skin that is warm to touch.

“If some­one ex­pe­ri­ences a PE, how­ever, they may suf­fer from short­ness of breath, breath­ing dif­fi­cul­ties and some­times pain in the lungs,” says Bres­lin. “Seek­ing med­i­cal help fol­low­ing any of these symp­toms is es­sen­tial as blood clots in the lungs can be fa­tal if left un­treated.”

Preven­tion is key, so lead­ing a healthy life­style — al­ways a good motto as we age — is im­por­tant. That in­cludes stay­ing ac­tive, eat­ing well, lim­it­ing weight gain and avoid­ing smok­ing.

When stay­ing in hos­pi­tal for what­ever rea­son, we should try and move around through­out the day if pos­si­ble, to stim­u­late blood flow in the legs.

On those long-haul flights we should stay hy­drated — drink plenty of wa­ter, avoid al­co­hol, keep the legs mov­ing and walk around.

The need to keep ex­er­cis­ing can’t be em­pha­sised enough says, fit­ness ex­pert, Jamie Headon. “The ben­e­fits of be­ing ac­tive as you age are well doc­u­mented — reg­u­lar ex­er­cise helps boost mo­bil­ity, im­prove brain func­tion and in­crease muscle mass.”

In ad­di­tion, lim­it­ing those ex­tended pe­ri­ods of sit­ting down, can also help nor­mal flow of blood through­out our body and thereby re­duce your risk of de­vel­op­ing a blood clot.

Here are some of his top leg ex­er­cises for any­one aged over 50:

An­kle rolls: Lift one leg off the ground and roll your an­kle clock­wise 10 times and anti-clock­wise 10 times — hold on to a chair or ta­ble to stay bal­anced. Re­peat with the op­po­site leg.

Leg lifts: While sit­ting in a chair, ex­tend one leg straight out in front of you. Hold for two sec­onds. Then raise it up slightly and lower back to the ground slowly. Re­peat 5 times for each leg.

Knee Raises: Hold your arms out straight in front you. Lift one leg up and hold your knee with both hands for about 10 sec­onds. Re­peat 5 times for each leg.

Calf Raises: With your toes point­ing for­ward, raise your heels uni­lat­er­ally off the ground while keep­ing your toes on the floor. Slowly lower your heels back to the ground and re­peat 10-20 times.

Chair squats: Stand in front of a chair with feet hip-width apart. Hold your arms out straight in front you. Slowly lower your bot­tom onto the chair. Make sure to keep your knees over your an­kles, plac­ing your weight in your heels, not the knees. Squats should fo­cus on driv­ing the knees out. Re­peat 10 times.

“All ex­er­cises should be per­formed with a tight core, straight back, feet shoul­der­width apart and head fac­ing for­ward. I also al­ways rec­om­mend consulting your doc­tor be­fore start­ing a new ex­er­cise rou­tine,” says Headon.

Jamie Headon is work­ing with Throm­bo­sis Ire­land (VTE sup­port group), in part­ner­ship with Bayer, on a na­tional aware­ness cam­paign called #Time2Move to ed­u­cate men and women about DVT. To learn more visit www.throm­bo­

Pic­ture: iStock

GET UP: Stay­ing ac­tive, eat­ing well, avoid­ing smok­ing, and gen­er­ally mov­ing around to stim­u­late the blood flow in your legs are key to avoid­ing DVT.

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