As you book your flight and pack your bags, are you also making sure to take care of your veins when you travel? This upcoming holiday travel season projects to be a busy one. A recent NerdWallet survey revealed 45 percent of Americans will be opening up their wallets to spend on hotels and/or flights this year. As those 114 million U.S. adults book their rooms and plane tickets, they may not be thinking about protecting their veins when they travel — but they should. Staying seated for more than four hours in a plane, car, or train raises the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot that forms in the deep vein in the leg. While the clot typically dissolves without causing any symptoms, a clot that dislodges from the leg and moves to the lung may result in a potentially life-threatening pulmonary embolism. If you’re one of the millions of Americans planning to travel this holiday, you can prevent DVT by knowing your risk factors and taking precautions before you take off. Keeping Your Veins Healthy When You Travel Prior to your trip, you should consult with a vein specialist who can discuss any specific risk factors you may have for blood clots. For example, if you’ve previously had a blood clot or have a family history of clotting disorders, your doctor may prescribe blood thinners. You may also be at greater risk if you travel within three months after surgery. Recent research has also suggested a link between varicose veins and DVT. A study performed in Taiwan concluded that having varicose veins increases the chance of DVT by about 5.3 times. However, it’s important to note that the study did not prove varicose veins cause DVT, only that there is a correlation between the two conditions. Varicose veins emerge due to malfunctioning valves in superficial leg veins. When these valves can no longer pump blood back to the heart, blood remains within the vein walls, stretching them outward into varicose veins. This is different from DVT, which develops in veins deep within the leg. Whether you have varicose veins or not, you’ll want to take care of your veins when you travel. Sitting in cramped quarters for long hours restricts blood flow to the extremities. In addition, changes in air cabin pressure reduces oxygen in the blood. In response, the body boosts its clotting mechanism, thereby increasing the chance of a clot. You can counter those negative effects by following these three simple tips:
- Move Around. Whenever possible, leave your seat and take a walk to exercise your calf muscles. Even when seated, you can flex your ankles or pull your knee to your chest several times. The important thing to remember is to engage your leg muscles, which promotes proper circulation.
- Stay Hydrated. When you’re dehydrated, your blood thickens, which increases the odds of a blood clot. Air travel tends to dehydrate, which means it’s vital to hydrate on planes. Be sure to sip water — but avoid caffeine and alcohol — on long flights.
- Slip on Compression Stockings. If you already have varicose veins, you probably wear compression stockings — those super-strong elastic garments that hug the legs so blood doesn’t pool within the veins. Even if you don’t have varicose veins, but may be at risk for DVT, buying a pair of compression stockings for the trip maintains healthy blood flow.