Prevent Blood Clots

Anyone can be affected by a blood clot regardless of age, gender, or race. Learn about the signs and symptoms of a blood clot and what you can do to help prevent one. 

Portrait of a diverse multi-generation family group

Learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones from a blood clot.

Blood clots are preventable, yet an estimated 900,000 Americans are affected each year, resulting in nearly 100,000 deaths. A blood clot in the deep vein (also known as a deep vein thrombosis [DVT]) typically occurs in the lower leg, thigh, pelvis, or arm. When a DVT is left untreated, a part of the clot can break off and travel to the lungs, causing a blockage called a pulmonary embolism (PE). A PE can be deadly by preventing blood from reaching the lungs.

Although anyone can be affected by a blood clot, certain risk factors, such as hospitalization, pregnancy, cancer, and some types of cancer treatments, can increase a person’s  chance of developing one. Other risk factors, such as limited movement due to extended travel or bed rest, a personal or family history of blood clots, or injury to a vein, can increase a person’s chance of developing a blood clot. Learn more about the risk factors.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Man with injured calf, massaging painful leg muscle with red sore spot

Knowing the signs and symptoms can help you get treatment at the earliest signs of a blood clot.

A DVT can occur without any symptoms, but the following are the most common signs and symptoms of a DVT:

  • Swelling of the affected limb
  • Pain or tenderness not caused by injury
  • Skin that is warm to the touch, red, or discolored

If you experience any of these signs or symptoms, alert your doctor as soon as possible.

The following are the most common signs and symptoms of a PE:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain that worsens with a deep breath or cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Faster-than-normal or irregular heartbeat

Seek medical treatment immediately when you experience any of these signs and symptoms.

It’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of a blood clot so that you can alert your doctor or seek medical treatment immediately. If discovered early, a blood clot is treatable.

How can I prevent a blood clot?

  • Improve blood flow in your legs when sitting for long periods of time, following bed rest, or when traveling for more than 4 hours by moving your legs as much as possible and exercising your calf muscles.
    • Get up and walk around every 2–3 hours if you are able to and if space allows
    • Do seated leg stretches
      • Raise and lower your heels while keeping your toes on the floor
      • Raise and lower your toes while keeping your heels on the floor
      • Tighten and release your leg muscles
    • If you’re at risk for a DVT, talk with your doctor about taking medication or wearing graduated compression stockings. Learn more about diagnosing and treating a blood clot.

Colleen’s Story

Colleen Dietz

“…Colleen had to keep stopping every 2 minutes because she was having coughing fits and difficulty breathing. She thought she might have bronchitis, so she went to see her doctor, who immediately referred her to the emergency department, where she had a chest CT scan. The scan showed that she had a saddle pulmonary embolism. This occurs when one or more blood clots straddle the junction where the main pulmonary artery, which supplies blood to the lungs, branches off into the right and left pulmonary arteries, causing right heart strain and, potentially, sudden death. Doctors call this the “dead zone” because most people do not survive this type of blood clot.”

Read Colleen’s full story.

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