We’ve passed the unofficial start of summer, and our new normal is really starting to kick in. Now that the coronavirus threat is finally beginning to fade, Americans are itching to dust off their suitcases and start traveling again.
It seems like everyone is making plans and booking trips to catch up with family and friends. And if you find yourself ready to hit the road again, too, you’ll be sure to have a lot of company when you do.
But if you’re planning on taking to the skies again, I have a warning you should hear before you head out. There’s an often-overlooked threat that could bring your post-pandemic travel fun to a tragic end.
If you’re not careful, you could fall victim to a type of blood clot that plagues travelers. These dangerous clots tend to strike air passengers who’ve been sitting for a long time. This means if you have a flight in your future, you could be at risk.
But there’s a simple way to take to the skies again without having to worry about blood clots. I’ll explain exactly how in a moment.
But first, let’s take a quick look at how these clots form and the symptoms you should be on the lookout for.
Don’t let a DVT ruin YOUR vacation
A DVT or deep vein thrombosis is a type of blood clot that forms in the deep veins of your calves or thighs when you sit for too long. Anyone can develop one, but seniors who fly have to be particularly careful about avoiding them.
You see, as we age, our circulation naturally becomes a bit slower. And when you combine sluggish blood flow with sitting for hours, that makes it far more likely a DVT will form.
The blood clot can break loose and travel through your circulatory system to your lungs. It’s then officially known as a pulmonary embolism. PEs cause chest pain and breathing problems. They’re life-threatening and can trigger your lung to collapse and even lead to heart failure.
But clots that don’t break loose can still cause a world of trouble. With post-thrombotic syndrome, the clot stays, but it re-routes the blood flow in your leg. This leads to increasing pressure and eventually debilitating pain.
Look out for these blood clot symptoms
If you’re going to sit for more than a few hours, be on the lookout for these common DVT symptoms in your legs…
- leg swelling (especially the calf)
- pain and tenderness
- reddish or bluish skin (noticeable bruising)
- skin that’s warm to the touch
But don’t be fooled into thinking you’re in the clear if you don’t have these symptoms. Because one of the most frustrating things about deep vein thrombosis is that there often aren’t any obvious symptoms.
That means it’s important to start thinking about how to prevent a clot now before you start traveling again.
4 ways to slash your blood clot risk
But you can refuse to be a literal sitting duck. Because we aren’t powerless against DVT. There are four steps you can take…two long-term solutions and two short-term ones… to reduce your own DVT risk.
1. Lose weight:
If you’re overweight and like to travel, the threat of a DVT is yet another reason to commit to losing those extra pounds. Being overweight can contribute to circulation problems, which increases your risk for a clot.
Dropping even a few pounds can help boost your circulation. And as your weight drops, so will your DVT risk.
2. Daily exercise:
Exercise, of course, can help you lose weight. But even when the numbers on the scale don’t budge, exercise is excellent for improving your circulation. And healthy blood flow is the best way to avoid a DVT.
Commit to doing something active every day. And switch things up to keep from getting bored. One day maybe it’s a “dancing to the oldies” video on YouTube. The next, it might be hitting the pool for some laps.
Need some inspiration? Try these 8 fun and easy chair exercises. The more you move, the less likely you will be to develop a clot.
When you have to sit for long periods, it’s important to break up the sitting by getting up and walking around. Walk the aisles of the plane or the train every hour and a half or so. This will discourage a clot from developing. Or, if you’re driving, schedule pit stops every couple of hours.
But walking isn’t just important when you’re traveling. Make sure you’re getting up from the couch, desk, or lounge chair too. Commit to a 10-minute stroll every hour or so, even when you’re at home.
4. Move more:
No matter whether it’s because of turbulence, you’re being stuck in a middle seat, or you simply not being able to leave a meeting or a movie, there are times when walking isn’t an option. When that happens, channel your inner child and start squirming in your seat.
Try some simple leg exercises when you find yourself having to stay put. Circle your ankles ten times each way. Point and flex your toes. Straighten and bend your knees. The key to heading off a clot is to keep the circulation moving through your lower leg.
Ask your doctor whether wearing compression socks on your flight is a good choice for you. And, remember, if you feel like something’s wrong, see a doctor immediately. DVT isn’t always life-threatening, but it IS always serious.