Blood clots are an increasing concern to the modern traveller
With the price of plane flights now lower than they have ever been before, a high percentage of us now make regular journeys to destinations around the world: long distance travel has become part and parcel of modern-day life.
Whilst the ease and price of travel presents fantastic holiday and business opportunities, these opportunities are not risk-free: we are hearing more and more about the increasing incidents of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) or venous thromboembolisms (VTEs) caused by the combination of physical inactivity on plane journeys and the low pressure found in an airplane cabin. In fact, the more physically immobile or restricted we are, the greater our risk of these blood clots, which is why DVT is often referred to as "Economy Class Syndrome".
So flights may be cheap because they can pack ever greater numbers of people in modern aircraft, but this comes at a potential price to our health and wellbeing. In fact, it is estimated that the risk of DVT increases by three to five times for flights over four hours! Overall, just one long haul fight a year will increase our yearly risk of DVT by 12%. These increases in danger are also applicable to long car and coach journeys, where we are forced to be still for long periods of time.
(What is most concerning is that these statistics represent only the tip of the iceberg because DVT actually kills more than 25,000 hospital patients each year in England alone because of their bed-ridden inactivity. This accounts for more combined deaths than breast cancer, AIDS and road traffic injuries.)
So DVT is a serious threat to health, and a risk that all of us would be wise to take measures to reduce.
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DVT Risk Factors
- Dehydrated (due to lack of water or too much alcohol)
- Feeling stressed
- Poor dietary habits
- A previous cardiovascular condition
- Poor sleep position
- Being especially tall or short (short legs in a seat cannot touch the ground so easily which puts pressure on the back of the thigh which causes blood-flow restrictions.)
- Age: risk increases with age after 40
- Taking the contraceptive pill
- Being pregnant
- On an HRT program
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Simple Steps to Reduce DVT Risk
As it is difficult to avoid modern travel, we have put together some tips and tricks to help naturally reduce your risk of DVT:
- Ensure maximum mobility. Keep stretching out your legs and moving your feet around. And keep annoying that person sitting next to you by climbing over them and walking up and down the aisles.
- Drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol (you may be starting your holiday and the on-board alcohol may be free, but it is not worth the health risk).
- Rest your feet on leg rests or on your hand luggage. It is important that there is no pressure on the back of the thigh or knee.
- Wear compression stockings (you can find them at most travel and airport shops). These increase the efficiency of circulation in the legs. This is especially important if you have varicose veins.
- Conventionally, it is recommended that travelers take low dose (100 – 150mg daily) aspirin the day before, during a long haul flight and for three days afterwards. This helps to thin the blood and make it less gloopy. However, aspirin itself is associated with health risks such as hemorrhaging, and so many people are instead starting to use a natural food extract from Japan called NattoTabs which is very safe and are recommended by the Aviation Health Institute. (If you are on blood thinning medication, it is important that you consult your doctor before taking anything like aspirin or NattoTabs.)
- Take an effective natural antioxidant food supplement like Alpha-Guard at least a week before flying to ensure maximum protection against free-radical production and inflammation/ swelling.
- Walk as much as possible before flying and after you embark at your destination.
- If you know that you have a particularly high risk of developing blood clots, it is important that you consult your doctor before flying. (He may prescribe a strong medication such as heparin.)
Please note that we can never entirely eliminate the risk of DVT and that these tips are merely suggestions to help reduce that risk. If you are suffering from a cardiovascular disease or indeed any medical condition, we strongly advise that you consult your doctor before traveling.
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Finally, it is important to put things in perspective and to understand that the health risks of flying are low, with flying still statistically safer than car journeys. However, whatever way you choose to travel, taking the steps suggested above will help to reduce that risk even further to help safeguard your health and that of your family.
(More info on NattoTabs and Alpha-Guard can be found on this website.)