In the United States, blood clots claim a life every six minutes.
While people of all ages can be affected, there’s good news: With proper care, it’s preventable.
The risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a clot in a deep vein, usually in the lower leg, thigh or pelvis, does increase with age.
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Clots can also occur in other parts of the body, such as the arm, and if one breaks off and travels through the bloodstream to the lungs, it can cause a pulmonary embolism (PE) – a blockage of arteries in the lungs.
DVT and PE together are known as venous thromboembolism (VTE). which can cause serious illness, disability or death.
As many as 100,000 people die from blood clots each year in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and VTE affects as many as 900,000 Americans each year.
People who are obese, have lung, heart or inflammatory bowel disease, recent or recurrent cancer, or are on an estrogen-based medication are at higher risk for blood clots.
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Other major risk factors include hospitalization, surgery, pregnancy, trauma, smoking, a family history of blood clots and immobility or sitting for long periods of time.
Experts say people should be alert for clot symptoms during or shortly after a prolonged car or plane ride.
In addition, AARP notes that scientists have found a link between the COVID-19 virus and abnormal blood clots that are potentially triggered by high levels of inflammation.
Symptoms of DVT include pain or tenderness not caused by an injury, leg or arm swelling, skin that is warm to the touch with swelling or pain, and redness of the skin with swelling or pain.
Symptoms of PE include difficulty breathing, chest pain that worsens with a deep breath, coughing up blood, very low blood pressure or light-headedness and fainting, and a faster-than-normal or irregular heartbeat.
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If a blood clot is found, most patients will be put on a blood-thinning medicine and surgery may be required in rare cases, the AARP said.
To prevent clots, individuals are advised to know risks and recognize symptoms, see a doctor as soon as is possible if experiencing symptoms, and talk with a doctor about blood clots before any surgery.