How to Avoid Blood Clots and Prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

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How to Avoid Blood Clots and Prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis DVT
 Venous thromboembolism—a blood clot in the veins— is a serious medical condition that impacts hundreds of thousands of Americans every year and causes up to 100,000 deaths. While most people diagnosed with venous thromboembolism can recover fully with treatment, it’s important to remember that early diagnosis and treatment are crucial to prevent serious complications. Understanding how to prevent blood clots in the first place is key to lowering your risk of these dangerous complications.

 This guide explores seven effective prevention strategies and discusses the telltale signs and symptoms of blood clots, empowering you to know when to seek medical care. 

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Seven Ways to Avoid Blood Clots in the Legs

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE) are two types of venous blood clots that can often start in the legs. 

By supporting healthy blood circulation and keeping your leg veins healthy, you can help prevent blood clots from forming. Here are seven ways to do just that.Seven Ways to Avoid Blood Clots in the Legs

1. Make Time to Move Every Day

Thanks to the conveniences of modern life, many of us spend hours a day sitting. Whether traveling in a car, sitting at a desk, or relaxing at home, being stationary for hours is a common lifestyle for many.¹

The problem with sitting for long periods is the lack of movement slows down blood circulation and reduces blood flow, making it easier for clots to form in the veins.  

Moving more can increase circulation and prevent blood from slowing down as it moves through your blood vessels

Here are easy ways to incorporate more movement into your day-to-day routine:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Take a lunchtime walk
  • Take a walk after dinner — recruit family, friends, and neighbors 
  • Point and flex your feet while sitting at work or at home
  • Start your day with 20 minutes of stretching or yoga
  • When traveling by car, stop at least once every two to three hours to walk around
  • If sitting for long periods, get up every hour to stretch, walk around, and get your blood flowing

Exercising regularly can help maintain a healthy weight. The National Institutes of Aging recommends at least 150 minutes of exercise per week. 

2. Stay Hydrated

When the body is dehydrated, the blood becomes thicker and slowly moves through the veins. This can increase the risk of blood sticking together and developing into a clot. 

Drinking plenty of water and other fluids, such as fresh fruit juice, tea, and vegetable juices, can help prevent blood clots. 

Here’s a simpler way to estimate your daily fluid needs: divide your body weight in half and aim for that many ounces of fluids per day. For example, someone weighing 140 pounds would target around 70 ounces of fluids daily. 

Remember, this is an estimate. If you’re unsure about your specific needs, consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice. 

3. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight can counteract chronic low-level inflammation and high blood pressure. Being overweight can compromise vein walls and valves and contribute to vein disease. It also is associated with higher levels of fibrinogen, a major structural component of blood clots.

 Vein disease causes the one-way valves in leg veins to stop working properly. Blood pools in the legs, leading to problems like varicose veins, leg swelling, and poor circulation. It also increases the risk of blood clots. 

Exercise regularly can help maintain a healthy weight. The National Institutes of Aging recommends at least 150 minutes of exercise per week. 

Eating plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins like salmon, tuna, eggs, and low-fat dairy is a great way to support your overall health and help with weight management. A healthy diet can protect your veins from damage by strengthening vein walls and keeping your blood pressure within a healthy range. That, in turn, can contribute to a healthier cardiovascular system, including your veins. 

4. Elevate Your Feet, Especially When Sleeping

Keeping your feet elevated in the evenings while relaxing and sleeping can help promote healthy circulation and decrease the risk of deep vein thrombosis. Elevating your feet can also help ease vein symptoms like leg swelling, achiness, and pain if you have vein disease.

5. Wear Compression Stockings

Compression stockings can be helpful for those at a higher risk for deep vein thrombosis because of vein disease or being overweight. 

Compression socks or stockings work like regular knee-high socks, but they are specially designed to put pressure on the calf muscles. This pressure helps to encourage blood circulation. 

6. Quit Smoking

Smoking can be a significant risk to vein health. It increases blood pressure and inflammation, which damages the veins over time. Smoking also constricts blood vessels, making it more difficult for blood to flow easily. 

By decreasing circulation, increasing your risk of developing vein disease, and constricting blood flow, smoking makes it far more likely that blood clots will form. If you are a smoker and concerned about vein health, quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your overall well-being.

7. Get Regular Vein Health Screenings

Given that the disease increases the chances of blood clots and deep vein thrombosis, it is important to see a vein specialist to screen for this condition. A vein doctor can look for signs of vein disease, diagnose any existing health issues, and recommend treatment to address the damaged veins. 

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What Are the Main Causes of Blood Clots in the Legs?

What Are the Main Causes of Blood Clots in the Legs

A blood clot typically occurs when a combination of factors affects venous flow in an area. The more risk factors one has, the higher the risk for a blood clot. DVT risk factors include:

  1. Hypercoagulability due to:
  • Medications: oral contraceptives/birth control pills, hormone therapies, estrogen
  • Illness: inflammatory bowel disease, nephrotic syndrome, and sepsis
  • Predisposition to developing blood clots: hereditary factors, thrombophilia, etc.
  1. Venous Stasis, or slow blood flow from:
  • Vein disease: varicose vein disease, history of DVT or pulmonary embolism, venous obstruction
  • Cardiovascular disease: congestive heart failure, atrial fibrillation, stroke
  • Immobility: paralysis, extended sitting or standing, long flights or travel, bedrest after surgery
  • Pregnancy
  1. Damage to the vein wall:
  • Trauma or injury
  • Fracture of the pelvis, hip, or long bones
  • Central lines, pacemakers, or indwelling catheters
  • Smoking
  • Vein wall injury due to frequent injections, such as intravenous drug use

Several blood clot risk factors are out of your control—injury and genetics cannot be helped. However, there are steps you can take to decrease other risk factors and help prevent deep vein thrombosis, or blood clots, from occurring in your body.

Knowing the signs, symptoms, and risk factors for blood clots in the veins helps you remain vigilant and seek care as needed. Staying active, drinking plenty of water, and maintaining a healthy weight are just a few ways to help prevent blood clots in your legs.

Contact a vein specialist if you have long-standing symptoms such as swelling, aching, and leg pain. You may have vein disease, which is itself a risk factor for developing deep vein thrombosis.

Worried about blood clots in your legs? 

USA Vein Clinics has over 160 locations nationwide staffed by expert vein doctors. Book a consultation with a specialist near you.

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Other Important Tips to Avoid Blood Clots

What Is the Best Sleeping Position to Prevent Blood Clots?

Sleeping on your side promotes better circulation, which can help prevent blood clots. Side sleeping also encourages better breathing and digestion at night, which can help you experience more deep, restful, restorative sleep. 

Try sleeping on your left side more than your right if you can. Sleeping in this position takes the pressure off the large vein on the body’s right side, the Vena Cava. This vein carries oxygen-poor blood from your lower body back to the heart. 

Does Shaking Your Legs Prevent Blood Clots?

Any movement that improves circulation can help prevent blood clots, including shaking the legs, stretching, flexing the muscles, and raising the feet. If someone has to spend time in bed because of an injury or illness or after recovering from surgery, shaking, flexing the muscles, and other movements can positively impact blood flow. 

Recognizing the Signs of Deep Vein Thrombosis and a Pulmonary EmbolismRecognizing the Signs of Deep Vein Thrombosis and a Pulmonary Embolism

A blood clot in a deep vein can be dangerous if it travels through the vascular system and causes lung blockage. In that case, the clot becomes a pulmonary embolism. It can be fatal if a PE stops blood from reaching the lungs. 

It’s important to recognize the signs of a blood clot so you can seek medical attention if needed. So, what does a blood clot feel like? Blood clots themselves don’t typically have a specific feeling. However, depending on their location, they can cause other symptoms. 

How to recognize DVT:

DVT is a serious condition where a blood clot forms in a deep vein, usually in the legs. Symptoms may include:

  • Persistent calf and leg swelling
  • Persistent pain or tenderness in the thigh or calf, especially with exercise
  • Redness or warm to the touch
  • One leg is visibly larger than the other
  • Calf discomfort with flexion of the foot

How to recognize a pulmonary embolism:

A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot in the lung characterized by:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Spitting up blood
  • Unprovoked cough

If you are experiencing these blood clot symptoms, especially those related to pulmonary embolism, seek immediate medical attention.

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  1. Office of the Surgeon General (US); National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (US). The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism. Rockville (MD): Office of the Surgeon General (US); 2008. SECTION I: Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism as Major Public Health Problems.
  2.  Raza Ahman, MD. How Much Water Do You Need Each Day? Penn Medicine. May 20, 2015.
  3. Hotoleanu, Cristina. “Association between obesity and venous thromboembolism.” Medicine and Pharmacy Reports vol. 93,2 (2020): 162-168. doi:10.15386/mpr-1372

Medically Reviewed By:

Yan Katsnelson 2 M drive 1 1

Dr. Yan Katsnelson is a philanthropist, business owner, and highly skilled cardiac surgeon. He is the Founder and CEO of USA Vein Clinics, which is part of USA Clinics Group, the parent company of USA Fibroid Centers, USA Vascular Centers, and USA Oncology Centers, with more than 100 facilities nationwide. Dr. Yan has established himself as a strong advocate for accessibility and affordability of the most advanced medical care close to home. His mission is to create a positive experience for each patient with compassionate, personalized, and expert care.

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