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What is thrombosis and how can it be prevented

Thrombosis occurs when a clot forms inside a blood vessel, and is a common cause of heart attacks.

This condition became relevant after the United States, South Africa and the European Union temporarily suspended the use of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine, due to cases of patients who developed blood clots linked to its application. Here we will see what thrombosis is, why it occurs, and how it can be prevented.

What is thrombosis?

Deep vein thrombosis occurs when a blood clot, called a thrombus, forms in one or more deep veins in the body. It is common for this to occur in the legs.

There are different factors that can increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis, the more factors a person has, the greater the probability of suffering from this condition:

  • Go through a pregnancy.
  • To smoke.
  • Staying in prolonged rest, for example, after a long hospitalization, or due to paralysis.
  • Sitting for long periods of time, such as when driving or flying.
  • Suffering from certain conditions, such as heart failure or inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Suffering injuries or have surgery.
  • Having a family history of deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism.
  • Be over 60 years old.
  • Taking certain medications, for example, birth control pills, or undergoing hormone replacement therapy.

The most common symptoms of deep vein thrombosis are:

  • Pain in the affected leg (rarely occurs in both legs), which usually begins in the calf and feels like a cramp or swelling.
  • Redness or discoloration on the affected leg.
  • Swelling in the affected leg
  • Feeling of heat in the affected leg.

How to prevent thrombosis

You can prevent the appearance of deep vein thrombosis by incorporating different habits:

Stay active

A sedentary lifestyle is not healthy for anyone and is associated with many chronic diseases, such as obesity, high cholesterol and blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, osteoporosis, and even certain types of cancer.

  • How to beat sedentary lifestyle during the pandemic

It is also especially dangerous for people who have a genetic predisposition to clotting or who have diseases that put them at risk of thrombosis, since prolonged sitting or in one position prevents blood from circulating properly.

You don’t have to do a lot of physical effort or visit gyms to stay active. Walking, running, biking, and even taking breaks every 15 minutes during work to stretch can make a difference.

Another key moment to regain mobility is after surgery, as under these conditions blood flow slows down. So the sooner you can start moving safely after illness or surgery, the better. Consult health professionals about this possibility.

Take care of blood pressure

Neglecting to control blood pressure levels increases the risk of hypertension, a condition that can cause various cardiovascular complications, such as strokes or heart attacks.

It also increases the risk of deep vein thrombosis, so extra care about blood pressure is advised for people who have a family history of thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, or other bleeding disorders.

Limit or avoid tobacco

Smoking is the leading preventable cause of premature death in the US There is much evidence to support the benefits of quitting tobacco, including a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, lung problems, and cancer.

It can also benefit those who are at higher risk of developing deep vein thrombosis. This is because smoking increases blood pressure levels (a risk factor for thrombosis), hinders proper blood circulation, and increases the tendency for the blood to clot.

Control the weight

Being overweight increases your risk for about 200 different conditions, including heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, obstructive sleep apnea, and gastroesophageal reflux disease.

The added pressure that extra pounds can put on the veins in your pelvis and legs can also increase your risk of deep vein thrombosis.

If you are obese or overweight, consult doctors and nutritionists to begin a diet and exercise regimens. Even losing small amounts of weight (between 5 and 10%) helps reduce the risk of health problems.

Improve your circulation

You can combat poor circulation with foods that help reduce cholesterol levels, have analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, and are rich in antioxidants.

  • Foods that improve blood circulation

The best options are chili peppers, apples, oranges, blueberries, ginger, garlic, nuts, tomatoes, and turmeric, among others. It is also very important to stay hydrated.

If your legs are prone to swelling, you can consult your doctor about wearing compression stockings. These are responsible for creating firm pressure on the foot and lower leg, becoming less tight upward.

This helps blood return to the heart instead of pooling and clotting in the legs, which can reduce swelling and help prevent deep vein thrombosis.

They are especially useful during long trips, but it is important to consult an expert about their use, since certain people, such as those with diabetes, may not tolerate high pressure. Another common mistake that can cause problems is wearing the wrong size.

Don’t forget to visit the doctor

The above tips are useful to minimize the risk of thrombosis, but without a doubt the best way to prevent this disease is by doing annual check-ups.

Knowing your family history and health status, doctors can anticipate the appearance of any problem or detect it early, when the chances of a cure are greater.

Many times thrombosis can develop without giving clear signs, so being aware of any related symptoms, such as swelling, pain, redness or unusual warmth in one of the legs, is essential.

Remember: it is much easier to prevent deep vein thrombosis than to treat it once it is diagnosed.

Sources consulted: US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), American Heart Association, US National Library of Medicine, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Mayo Clinic, World Health Organization (WHO).

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