Understanding risk factors can lower risk of developing blood clots

Did you know NASCAR driver Brian Vickers was hospitalized with blood clots in his lungs? So was Serena Williams, a former world No. 1 tennis player and 13-time Grand Slam singles champion. It can happen to anyone, so this March during Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) Awareness Month, make sure you know the risk factors related to DVT and blood clots.

One of the most common causes of death in hospitalized patients is pulmonary embolism, a blood clot to the lung. More than 90 percent of pulmonary emboli occur as a result of deep vein thrombosis, also called DVT. DVT occurs as a result of vein damage or the slowing or stopping of blood flow in the deep veins of the leg. It is estimated that anywhere from 350,000 to 600,000 people develop a DVT annually. By far, the best approach is prevention.

To reduce the risk of developing a DVT, it’s important to understand your and your family members’ personal risk factors and triggering events.

Factors that increase the risk of a blood clot include serious illnesses like cancer, heart failure or pneumonia, and inherited conditions that cause abnormal blood clotting; being less mobile for an extended period of time (e.g. sitting or lying in bed); smoking, obesity, and an overly sedentary lifestyle, chemotherapy (cancer treatment), the combined contraceptive pill, Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), pregnancy, and previous blood clots. It is important that everyone is evaluated for DVT risk in the event of a hospitalization. And moving your legs during long plane, car, or rail trips and other situations in which you are sitting or lying down for an extended period also can help prevent DVT.

Additional information on DVT can be found in the health information library at http://bit.ly/ewA7Ln.

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Last Updated March 24, 2011