Serena Williams was just hospitalized for a condition known as a pulmonary embolism (PE), a blood clot that likely formed in her leg and traveled to her lung. It appears that Serena will be fine, however, this headline affords the medical community some free face time with the topic of blood clots. Unfortunately, PE's are pretty common and can be deadly, however, you'll be happy to know that PE's can, for the most part, be prevented. Here's how:
For one...get active! A sedentary lifestyle can cause the build up of turbulence in the large veins in your legs, leading to thrombus (clot) formation. If you've recently had surgery, you should be prescribed blood thinning medications and/or compression stockings to prevent these clots during your recovery.
Two...lose weight! Obesity in and of itself is a risk factor for PE. This is thought to occur due to pro-inflammatory factors, including higher estrogen levels, produced by fat cells.
Three...Move around and drink LOTS of fluids when traveling long distances! We all know how cramped airplanes are these days. It seems like airlines are trying to pack more and more people into the same amount of space! However, moving around is essential the airplane cabin is essential to preventing PE's. If you are truly stuck in your seat and can't get up, do calf flexing muscles at various intervals at your seat. This gets the blood pumping in and back out of your legs, staving off accumulation and clot formation. Drinking lots of fluids also keeps your blood nice and flushed allowing it to stay less sludgy and relatively "thinned out".
Four...NEVER SMOKE WHILE ON BIRTH CONTROL PILLS!!!! This is an absolute!!!!!!!! It is a well known fact that the combination of smoking cigarettes and being on birth control pills dramatically increases your risk of forming blood clots...DON'T DO IT! In fact, why would you smoke anyway...it's NOT attractive! Contact your doctor or health professional about ways to quit smoking. Most insurance companies cover nicotine replacement patches, gums and some even cover oral medications such as Chantix and Zyban. Make this a priority!
Five...be aware that certain genetic disorders (Protein C or S deficiencies, prothrombin/thrombin gene mutations), auto-immune disorders (such as certain variants of Lupus), all types of cancer and even pregnancy, lead to an increased chance of clotting. Therefore, if you happen to present with a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or PE at some point, you WILL be checked for these conditions. If you have one of these conditions, talk with your doctor or health professional about ways to minimize your risk.
Always remember, an ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure!
Dr. Maltz earned a Medical Degree and Master in Public Health from the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in Galveston, TX. She completed a combined Internal and Preventive Medicine Residency at UTMB in June, 2011. She then completed a 2-year Integrative Medicine Fellowship at Stamford Hospital in Stamford, CT, during which she simultaneously underwent an intensive 1000-hour curriculum created by The University of Arizona Integrative Medicine Program founded by Dr. Andrew Weil.