Blood Clot Risk and What You Can Do

Risk Factors

Estimated risk for developing a DVT (blood clot in the leg) or PE (blood clot in the lung):

High Risk

  • Hospital stay
  • Major surgery, such as abdominal/pelvic surgery
  • Knee or hip replacement
  • Major trauma: automobile accident or fall
  • Nursing home living
  • Leg paralysis

Moderate Risk

  • Older than age 65
  • Trips over 4 hours by plane, car, train, or bus
  • Active cancer/chemotherapy
  • Bone fracture or cast
  • Birth control pills, patch, or ring
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Pregnancy or recently gave birth
  • Prior blood clot or family history of clot
  • Heart failure
  • Bed rest over 3 days
  • Obesity
  • Genetic/hereditary or acquired blood clotting disorder

Average Risk

  • Active
  • Younger than age 40
  • No history of blood clots in immediate family
  • No conditions or illnesses that heighten clotting risk

Practical Steps to Lower Your Risk for a Blood Clot

  • Ask your doctor about need for “blood thinners” or compression stockings to prevent clots, whenever you are admitted to the hospital
  • Lose weight, if you are overweight
  • Stay active
  • Exercise regularly; walking is fine
  • Avoid long periods of staying still
  • Get up and move around at least every hour whenever you travel on a plane, train, or bus, particularly if the trip is longer than 4 hours
  • Point and flex your toes and make circles with your feet if you cannot move around while sitting for prolonged periods to get your blood circulating
  • Stop at least every two hours when you drive, and get out and move around
  • Drink a lot of water and wear loose fitted clothing when you travel
  • Talk to your doctor about your risk of clotting whenever you take hormones, whether for birth control or replacement therapy, or during and right after any pregnancy
  • Follow any self-care measures to keep heart failure, diabetes, or any other health issues as stable as possible

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