What to know about blood clots

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Healthy blood is designed to clot. When blood clots, it prevents heavy bleeding. But, if a clot happens inside a vein, it can be dangerous. This is called a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Sometimes, the blood clot may move through the body and get stuck in the lungs. This is called a pulmonary embolism (PE).


Up to 100,000 Americans die from a DVT or PE every year. These clots kill more people than breast cancer, car collisions, and HIV/AIDS combined.



Signs of a clot

Signs of a DVT or PE include:

•  Swelling, tenderness, redness or warmth in one area of the body

•  Chest heaviness or pain

•  Sweating

•  Feeling out of breath

•  Weakness or fainting

•  Fast heart beat

•  Feeling of impending doom



Know your risk

Certain things make you more likely to get a blood clot. They include:

•  Recent surgery or an injury

•  Being in bed for long periods

•  Not moving a certain body part, such as a broken leg

•  Sitting for a long time, including during travel

•  Higher levels of estrogen from birth control pills, pregnancy or hormone replacement therapy

•  Medical conditions, such as cancer, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, heart disease, blood clotting disorders or lung disease

•  Obesity

•  Smoking

•  History of atrial fibrillation (A-fib)



Reduce your risk

Talk about your risk with your doctor. You can lower your risk of getting a blood clot by:

•  Getting up from sitting at least every two hours

•  Moving around after surgery or being in bed for a long time

•  Moving legs and feet while on plane trips

•  Wearing loose-fitting clothes while sitting for a long time

•  Exercising regularly

•  Wearing compression stockings if recommended by your doctor



What to do?

If you think you or a loved one might have a blood clot, see a doctor right away. A blood clot can be treated if it’s caught early. Sometimes, doctors use medicines that dissolve the clot. Other times, doctors will perform surgery to remove the clot.


Sources: American Society of Hematology, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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