Until the untimely death of popular news correspondent David Bloom in 2003, few people had heard of deep vein thrombosis. This condition, which doctors have nicknamed “economy-class syndrome,” afflicts travellers and other people that must endure long periods of time in small, cramped spaces.
Possible CausesWhen the human body stays in one position for long periods of time, it raises the likelihood of developing blood clots in the pelvis or the legs. In most circumstances, these clots can dissipate when the body resumes normal activity. But in cases of deep vein thrombosis, the clot becomes so large that when it breaks off from the wall of the vein, it can lodge itself in the lungs, the heart, or the brain, causing serious damage.
Traditionally, deep vein thrombosis occurred only in hospital patients who had been bedridden for long periods of time. Doctors treated most cases of this condition in conjunction with a traumatic injury or a pregnancy that reduced a patient’s mobility.
Recently, doctors have observed more and more spontaneous cases of deep vein thrombosis, especially as travellers and office workers spend long amounts of time in cramped quarters with little or no physical activity. Deep vein thrombosis is especially prevalent among frequent air travellers, who must cram themselves into small, economy class seats that apply pressure to the legs and further restrict blood flow.
Frequently, a clot will dislodge itself shortly after the passenger gets up from their seat at the end of the trip. Within moments after normal circulation resumes in the body, the clot can cause a dangerous embolism.
Deep vein thrombosis occurs more frequently in people who suffer from poor circulation, congestive heart failure, bowel disorders, and other ailments that affect the blood stream.
Signs and SymptomsFortunately, clots can send warning signs far in advance. Understanding those signs and seeking treatment can mean the difference between life and death. Because the clots restrict blood flow through a vein, they can cause noticeable pain and swelling. In more severe cases, a patient’s leg can turn red and become warm. Some sufferers experience a condition known as post-thrombotic syndrome, in which blood pools in the lower leg. The pain from this damage to the valves in the vein is one of the most extreme alerts the body uses to convince us to seek treatment.
Treatments for Deep Vein Thrombosis
Doctors attempt to keep the clot from growing or dislodging by prescribing blood-thinning medications. It may take a treatment of three to six months for the body to dissolve the clots on its own. During that time, patients must avoid activities that carry the risk of injury, since the body might not be able to heal properly from external wounds.
Deep vein thrombosis sufferers can also benefit from numerous natural solutions to improve blood flow. Ginger root helps to relax the muscles surrounding blood vessels, helping blood move more freely through the arms and legs. Turmeric, a spice found most often in Indian curry dishes, can prevent new clots from forming. Ginkgo biloba, a traditional Chinese remedy, can also boost blood flow throughout the body.
Preventative MeasuresFortunately, as awareness spreads about the dangers of deep vein thrombosis, we can take stronger steps to prevent this potentially deadly condition. Maintaining a healthy diet and staying physically active – especially on long trips – can keep dangerous clots from forming in your legs.
Lowering your cholesterol can prevent most of the plaque deposits that ultimately lead to severe blood clots. Adding soy protein to your diet can raise good HDL cholesterol in your system. Consider replacing some of the meats and poultry in your current weekly routine with tasty soy substitutes. Thanks to new innovations in cuisine, you can enjoy soy-based chicken nuggets, cheeseburgers, and deli sandwiches that actually improve your cholesterol levels.
Adding more soluble fibre to your diet is another effective way to ward off deep vein thrombosis. Oat bran, beans, rice, strawberries, and apples can all help you reverse high cholesterol and prevent blood clots from forming. Eating fish like salmon, herring, and mackerel that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, can also prevent deep vein thrombosis.
Exercising for just thirty minutes every day can significantly cut your risk of developing deep vein thrombosis. If you haven’t exercised in a while, start with simple five or ten-minute bursts of physical activity – you don’t have to jump into an elaborate workout program all at once. You can gain many benefits by simply integrating more routine physical activities into your day, like housework, gardening, or walking.
As your stamina builds, you can start adding more regimented workouts to your day. Remember to select activities that you enjoy doing, so you can eagerly await your workouts each day, instead of dreading them.
Final ThoughtsWhether you travel frequently, work in a small office, or experience trauma that forces you to stay still for extended periods of time, you can prepare your body to ward off deep vein thrombosis. Simple changes to your diet and exercise routines can produce remarkable changes in your circulation. Aside from preventing deep vein thrombosis, you’ll enjoy better memory from increased blood flow to the brain, as well as a stronger resistance to heart disease later in life.