World Thrombosis Day
November 06, 2020
The CDC estimates up to 90,000 people experience a blood clot in the legs or lungs annually. Blood clots in the legs are known as DVTs or deep vein thromboses. If a piece of a DVT breaks off and travels to the lungs, it becomes a PE or pulmonary embolism. Blood clots are more common in people over 45 years old and occur slightly more often in men than in women.
Immobility is a strong risk factor for DVT and it may come in the form of a sedentary lifestyle, being stuck behind a computer at work, or being on a long trip in a plane or car. Activity is one of the best ways to combat immobility. Whether you are trying to stay healthy or return to your prior level of activity following a blood clot, an exercise program is beneficial for your overall wellness.
Once a blood clot is properly treated, you should always check with your health care provider to make sure you are safe to exercise. Gentle exercise, such as walking and stretching, is encouraged very soon after the clot has been diagnosed and medications have been initiated. Even if you are hospitalized, you will usually be instructed to walk several times a day. You can continue your walking program after discharge from the hospital as well. If you are new to exercise, you may want to begin by walking 3-4 minutes a couple of times a day. As you get used to exercising, you can begin to add 1-2 minutes to your walking program each week. If you have been exercising prior to your DVT, you can progress your walking program more quickly.
You can perform dynamic stretches at the ankles by flexing and extending your feet throughout the day, whether you are sitting in a chair or lying in bed. Stretching other joints of the legs and trunk can help your body warm up for exercise and cool down after a workout. Holding a few long stretches for at least 15 seconds is more beneficial than performing many repetitions for a shorter duration. Any exercise or stretching program should be approved by your health care provider.
Deep breathing is another important component to an exercise program, and you’ve been practicing this your whole life! Focus on noticing the expansion through your abdomen and chest with each inhalation, followed by a gentle contraction with each exhalation.
Following a DVT, most people are prescribed anti-coagulants, or blood thinners. While walking, stretching, and deep breathing are safe activities, contact sports are contraindicated while on blood thinners. It’s important to speak with your doctor before returning to sports or any exercise while taking these medications.
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