By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations
I’ve covered a lot of health topics. (After almost four years, that may be an understatement!) Of course, as a medical professional running a vein clinic, one subject I’m most passionate about is venous disease. Venous disease includes deep vein thrombosis (DVT), pulmonary embolism (PE), and chronic venous insufficiency.
DVT and PE are serious conditions and together affect an estimated 350,000 – 600,000 Americans each year. And there’s evidence to suggest that the number is even higher, as studies suggest both diseases are underdiagnosed. There’s also reason to believe that the number of cases will rise in the coming years, as the risk of both DVT and PE risk increases with age.
Deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism can be deadly. Estimates of the deaths caused by DVT and pulmonary embolism vary widely. In a year, estimates are that DVT and PE cause between 30,000 and 100,000 deaths a year.
When it comes to our health, it’s often true that a good defense is your best offense. In other words, knowing your risk factors and practicing prevention is key.
Risk Factors for Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism
- An inherited blood-clotting disorder or a family history of DVT or PE. Take comfort, though: the inherited condition may not be an issue unless it’s combined with other risk factors. Knowing your family history can help you better protect yourself.
- Injury to your veins and some surgeries may increase your risk of blood clots.
- Birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy can both increase the ability of your blood to clot.
- Pregnancy, which increases the pressure in the veins of the pelvis and legs, also increases your risk of DVT. The risk can continue for up to six weeks postpartum. Women who have a family history of blood clots are especially at risk, so know your history!
- Maintaining a healthy weight is important. When you’re overweight, veins in your pelvis and legs are under increased pressure.
- Smokers increase their risk of DVT (along with a host of other diseases!)
- Sitting for an extended period of time. When your legs are moving, your calf muscles contract, helping blood circulate. When you’re still for long periods (a big drive or flight, or when you’re chained to your desk) blood clots can form in your calves.
- Age, the uncontrollable risk factor. People over 60 have a higher risk of DVT and PE.
In theory, prevention is easy. In practice, we fallible people often find it’s a challenge. I wish there was a silver bullet, really.
- Get to know your family history, if possible. If you’re at higher risk of DVT or PE, it means that you need to work a little harder to control what you can.
- Don’t smoke. Or quit smoking. Smoking shows up in a lot of prevention lists for a reason. The destructive effect smoking has on your health is far reaching. If you’re not a smoker (because you’ve never started or you’ve fought and quit) congratulations! If you are a smoker, here’s a resource to help you quit.
- Eat well and exercise regularly. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of DVT and PE. It also increases your risk of getting diabetes, which is a condition that can trigger excessive clotting in your brain and heart.
Take a coffee break at work. You’re probably not doing anything of value when you chain yourself to the desk for hours on end. You’ll get your creative juices flowing, be more productive, and get your calf muscles moving if you cut down on time spent sitting down during the day, and break up the day with walks.