How To Prevent A Blood Clot In The Legs

By:    Published: September 6, 2011

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Many people are familiar with the medical term, "blood clot," but most don't fully understand what it means. In some cases, the blood will clot as a repair mechanism of the body for damaged blood vessels. However, when a blood clot forms when no repair is needed, the effects can be very dangerous. Most blood clots that cause medical complications begin to form due to physical inactivity. For anyone who is unable to move around due to an illness, injury, surgery or health complication, blood clots can be quite serious.

What Causes a Blood Clot?

The most common form of blood clots that pose a serious health issue is a blood clot in the legs, also known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT occurs when a blood clot forms inside a vein, typically in the legs, and is deep inside the body. There are several major causes and risk factors associated with this type of blood clot:

  • Anyone above the age of 40.
  • Cigarette smokers.
  • Fractures in the legs or pelvis, limiting mobility.
  • Those who have undergone recent surgery.
  • Anyone with restricted mobility.
  • People who are bedridden.
  • Individuals suffering from obesity.
  • People with a history of DVT in the family.
  • Heart failure.
  • Pregnancy and women during their childbearing years.
  • People with blood that is more likely to clot.
  • Those with cancer.
  • Anyone on estrogen or birth control pills.
  • Frequent traveling with limited movement in the legs, though this risk factor is usually paired with another risk factor for DVT.

The Risks of Blood Clots and Signs to Watch For

A blood clot can pose a serious issue for many people. If the blood clot blocks the flow of blood, it can cause pain and/or swelling in the affected area. A blood clot can also break free and move to other areas of the body. Even with DVT, where the blood clot is somewhere in the legs, the clot can move all the way up to the lungs where it can do serious damage. Blood clots that travel to other areas of the body through the bloodstream are called embolisms.

Potential risk factors and complications include:

  • Pain and swelling in the limbs.
  • Blood clots can lead to amputation.
  • A blood clot to the lungs can cause problems in the lungs and prevent proper lung function.
  • Blood clots can affect the circulation of blood to other parts of the body.

Some signs to watch for are:

  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Chest pain.
  • A rapid heartbeat.
  • A severe cough, sometimes with blood.
  • Fatigue or dizzy spells; fainting.
  • Mild fever.
  • The skin may turn red in the affected area.
  • Pain or soreness around your limbs.
  • Swelling around your limbs.
  • A warm spot on your body where a blood clot may have formed.

How to Prevent a Blood Clot

If you are at a high risk for developing a blood clot that can lead to health complications, there are various ways to prevent them from ever forming:

  • Try wearing medical compression stockings for better blood circulation.
  • Avoid tight fitting clothes, especially socks, stockings or any apparel worn around the legs.
  • Occasionally raise your legs six inches above your heart for better blood flow.
  • Get your blood circulating by moving around more. If you are stuck in a fixed position for extended periods of time, like at your cubicle, stretch your legs or get up and go for a brisk walk to prevent blood clots.
  • Consult your physician about medication that can help prevent DVT if you are ever bedridden due to surgery, pregnancy or an injury that is keeping you immobile.
  • Quit smoking to help prevent blood clot formation.
  • If you are suffering from obesity, you should develop ways to eat healthier and exercise more to lose weight.
  • Keep yourself properly hydrated with plenty of water.
  • Do not stand or sit for extended periods of time, exceeding one hour. Move around every so often to prevent a blood clot from forming.
  • During long trips, especially in a car or an airplane, try different stretching and exercise techniques to keep your blood flowing.

Seeking Medical Attention

If you are being treated for an injury, sickness or anything else that will restrict movement for extended periods of time, talk to your physician about ways you can prevent blood clots from forming to reduce the risk of DVT. In the even that you experience any symptoms related to a possible blood clot traveling to your lungs, like chest pains and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention immediately. The most basic, precautionary measure can be taken to prevent a blood clot in the legs to avoid DVT and the medical complications associated with it.

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