Health Matters: Let’s Collect Our Thoughts About Preventing Blood Clots

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I was asked by a friend to explain how an acquaintance had died suddenly from a blood clot. This is overwhelmingly due to blood clots in veins below the waist forming a clot which breaks loose and lodges in the lungs. The name is venous thromboembolism (thrombo=clotting, embolism=traveling). It is an important and often deadly condition.

The number of people having clots form in their legs is estimated at 900,000 per year, and the pulmonary embolism results in estimates of up to 100,000 deaths yearly. GOODNESS. The causes were described by one of the most famous physicians of the 19th century, Rudolph Virchow (1821-1902), a German pathologist. He described the three predisposing factors: slowed circulation, increased clotting mechanism (hypercoagulability to the informed), and damage to the lining of the blood vessels. These are to be avoided in as much as possible—it “bees” Clotting Disease’s threes.

Slowed circulation is almost certainly the most common causal factor in thrombosis of the veins, most often in the legs. We have two sets of leg veins—superficial (which are visible and drain the skin) and deep (which are not visible and drain the muscles). Clots in the deep veins are the dangerous ones. Inactivity is the principle cause of slowed circulation.

A remarkable engineering feat of creation design—the heart propels arterial blood, but veins are beyond that propulsion’s reach; instead, the muscles of the legs contract and squeeze the contained blood during walking, and valves keep the blood going back to the heart during relaxation! Inactivity for prolonged periods such as bedrest slows the circulation, setting the stage for clots—OH NO. This is also a dangerous situation on long airplane flights. Flights over four hours are particularly chancy. I try to briefly walk the aisle every hour to be on the safe side. One can also move legs while seated, especially the calf muscles, by raising your heels are far as you can or bringing the knee toward the chest periodically.

Increased clotting can be from genetic or acquired conditions. If one has relatives that have had clots, have clots in unusual places such as the arms, or have repeated clots, they should be evaluated by a physician. Predisposition is in people over 60 years, obesity, recent surgery, or marked dehydration. One way you can keep your blood staying thinner is to drink enough water. A good rule of thumb is to drink 8-8oz glasses of liquid daily. YES!

There is a thin layer lining the vessels and heart called endothelium, which serves as the Teflon of our bodies. This lining is composed of the only cells that keep blood from clotting. This lining can become damaged as we age and expose tissue that can provoke clotting.

Signals of possible deep vein thrombosis: When one leg or more (rarely an arm) becomes swollen, tender without cause, or reddened, get checked out. Keep Safe. Go to drjimshealthtips.com.

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