Keep Moving for Leg and Heart Health

0616_BHC_vein specialistsAccording to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 300 million people travel on long-distance flights each year. As we begin the summer travel season, it is important to know that blood clots can be a serious risk for long-distance travelers. Anyone who travels for four or more hours, whether by plane, car, bus, or train, can be at risk.

Blood clots can form in the veins deep in your legs during travel because you are sitting still for long periods of time. When you sit too long in one place, so does your blood. The platelets start to stick together and form a clot. Many blood clots will dissolve on their own, but if a clot breaks loose and starts to move through your system, it could end up in your lungs and cut off oxygen to the heart. That’s called a pulmonary embolism, and it is potentially fatal.

The biggest factor when traveling is lack of movement. The longer you are immobile, the greater your risk. Your risk factors increase if you are over age 40, are obese, have had surgery within the past three months, have a personal or family history of blood clots, are pregnant or have been pregnant within the past six weeks, use oral contraceptives, or suffer from varicose veins.

If you experience any of the following symptoms of a blood clot, seek medical attention immediately:

  • Swelling of your leg or arm
  • Unexplained pain or tenderness
  • Skin that is warm to the touch
  • Skin redness

To protect yourself when traveling, take the following steps:

  • Know the symptoms of a blood clot.
  • Get up and move around when traveling. Walk around the cabin of the plane, walk the aisles of a bus or train, and take frequent rest stops when traveling by car to get out and walk around for several minutes.
  • If you cannot get up to walk, exercise your calf muscles and flex your ankles to improve blood flow.
  • Always wear compression stockings when traveling.
  • Drink lots of fluids.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol.

If you would like more information about your risk for blood clots, call The Vein Specialists at 309-862-4000 to schedule a consultation with one of their physicians, or request an appointment online at They have convenient locations in Bloomington, Eureka, Peru, Springfield, and Streator.

Photo credit: Pamela Moore/iStock