(NewsUSA) – Summertime plans may include a 21-hour flight to the “Land Down Under,” a drive from Boston to grandma’s house in Phoenix, a 10-hour train ride through the Grand Canyon or a cross-country bus trip to Orlando.
Itinerary aside, extended travel in a plane, car, train or bus can increase the risk of developing blood clots.
“Standing and stretching the legs every two to four hours is advised for travelers at risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT),” said Dr. David Stone, a member of the Society for Vascular Surgery. Vascular surgeons encourage exercise during travel to maintain healthy veins and arteries.
With extended travel, a blood clot can potentially form in the veins of the leg. If the clot breaks loose and travels to the lungs, it causes a pulmonary embolism.
Each year, 300,000 to 600,000 Americans die of a blood clot in the lungs, according to 2011 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics. Risk factors for the under-diagnosed, preventable condition are:
* Vein injury, including major surgery
* Slow blood flow from limited movement
* Increased estrogen levels from medications
* Chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, lung disease, cancer treatment or inflammatory bowel disease
* Family history of DVT
* High blood pressure
* A catheter in a central vein
* An inherited clotting disorder
Almost anyone can be affected. In 2003, 39-year-old NBC News reporter David Bloom died of a blood clot after weeks of traveling around Baghdad in a cramped military tank.
“Whenever traveling in confined places, persons at risk of developing DVT should raise and lower their heels and toes and tighten and release their leg muscles,” said Dr. Stone. “This helps to promote blood flow to the legs. Also, drink plenty of water, and wear loose-fitting clothes.”
Vascular surgeons suggest a regular exercise routine, a healthy body weight and not smoking as preventive measures against DVT. Ultrasound tests can detect DVT.
Since half of DVT patients never experience warning signs, early detection is important.
Anticoagulant medication can help treat DVT. Visit the Society for Vascular Surgery website, VascularWeb.org, for more vascular health information.