March is DVT Awareness Month. I am ordinarily skeptical of awareness campaigns. People often promote awareness because they have no clear agenda for dealing with a problem. But in the case of DVT, I do think lack of awareness may be costing lives. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT), often leads to pulmonary embolism (PE), which kills 60,000 to 100,000 Americans per year. DVT can happen to anybody, and once it has progressed to PE, death is the first symptom in about a quarter of the cases, according to the CDC.
What Is DVT?
DVT is a blood clot deep in a vein, usually in your legs or pelvis. It happens when your blood moves too slowly, which is why it is associated with immobility. Blood moves through your arteries as a result of the force provided by your heart. But when it reaches the veins, on the return trip, that force has partly dissipated, and your system relies on the frequent contraction of your muscles to keep the blood flowing. If you don’t move, the blood slows and can have a chance to clot. These clots are sometimes harmless and dissolve of their own accord. But if a piece of a clot breaks off and travels intact to your lungs, it is known as a pulmonary embolism and can do terrible damage, resulting in chest pain, difficulty breathing, irregular heartbeat, fainting, or death.
The condition is a particular hazard in today’s world, when we all spend so much time sitting, whether working at a desk, watching television, reading, or traveling. About half of DVT cases have no symptoms. Telltale signs in the other half of cases include swelling in a limb, tenderness or pain that has no ready explanation, skin that is warm to the touch, and skin redness. You can get a PE even if you have no DVT symptoms. The PE will usually show up as difficulty breathing, a rapid or irregular heartbeat, chest pain, anxiety, coughing blood, feeling faint, or death.
How to Prevent DVT
The risk factors for DVT are numerous. They include age over 40, sitting for long periods, extended bed rest (like in a hospital), pregnancy, obesity, cancer, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, injury to a vein, inherited blood disorder, smoking, birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, infection, inflammation, and high cholesterol. Obviously, you can control some of these more easily than others. But if you want to prevent DVT, I would recommend first that you keep moving. Exercise is medicine for lots of conditions, and it certainly helps to prevent DVT.
Even if you already have DVT, studies have shown that exercise can improve the symptoms. Be sure to check with your doctor to learn what type of exercise you can safely undertake. And if you exercise, either to prevent or to control DVT, remember that Peak Recovery & Health Center offers a range of recovery technologies that make exercise even more rewarding and sustainable.
We also offer one particular recovery method — compression therapy — that is directly associated with the circulatory system. Our RecoveryPump pneumatic garments systematically apply pressure and release in patterns designed to enhance blood flow, which in turn promotes oxygenation and detoxification. If you don’t have DVT but think you may be at risk for it, compression therapy could help prevent it. Talk to your doctor.
Note that while compression therapy can likely help prevent DVT, it is probably not a useful treatment if you already have it. Hospitals often use sequential compression devices on post-operative patients, but the studies have not shown any provable benefits.
Now that you have increased your DVT awareness, why not put it to use? Book a session or two for compression therapy at Peak Recovery & Health Center.