Preventing blood clots

November 26, 2008 4:03:44 PM PST
Recently, the surgeon general launched a campaign to make patients and doctors more aware of the problem of blood clots and how to prevent them. Fifty-seven year old Chyresse Nicholson has had two major blood clots called deep vein thromboses in the past three years. She was recently checked to make sure they're under control. The first clot five years ago nearly killed her.

"My leg started to swell. Very red. Blotchy. I couldn't stand in the show or walk up the stairs. They determined that I was in congestive heart failure and admitted me to intensive care. I was there for two weeks," she said.

The clot had traveled from her upper leg up to her lungs. That's called a pulmonary embolus, and it can be fatal. Immobility from being in a hospital bed, from taking birth control pills or hormone replacement can do it. Even just sitting too long in a plane.

"Flights longer than six hours are when you are at higher risk for blood clots. The best thing to do on any long haul flight is get up and walk around at least two or three times,: Dr. Nicholas Morrissey said.

Symptoms of a leg clot may include leg swelling, pain in the calf and red or discolored skin on the leg.

A couple of other factors for blood clots if you have migraine headaches, your risk goes up. Simple air pollution in big cities increases risk, especially in children.

Nicholson survived her first clot but went on to have a second after an accident. At that time, pressure on the legs and abdomen may have caused her the clot. She's doing fine now, taking blood thinning drugs, which also can be used to prevent trouble.

People with a family history of blood clots are also at higher risk for deep vein thrombosis. The World Health Organization says that just being on a plane for a flight of four hours or more doubles your risk of a blood clot.

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