Preventing Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

Can DVT be prevented?

If you have risk factors for DVT, taking steps to control them can reduce your risk of developing dangerous blood clots in your veins:

  • Get the help you need to quit smoking
  • Reduce your weight if you are obese (calculate my BMI)
  • Get regular exercise – at least 30 minutes a day 5 or more days a week
  • Get your blood pressure under control
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet with plenty of fish, fruit, and vegetables and less red meat and processed food
  • See your doctor for regular checkups

You can also take precautions when you travel to avoid triggering a blood clot. During long trips, it may help to:

  • Get up and walk around as much as possible
  • If you are driving, stop every hour or so to walk around
  • Move your legs and stretch to promote blood flow in your calves:
    • raise and lower your heels while keeping your toes on the floor raise and lower your toes while keeping you heels on the floor tighten and release your calf and thigh muscles
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing
  • Stay hydrated
  • Your doctor may recommend that you wear compression stockings or take blood

thinning medications before a long trip

Preventing Another DVT

Women who have already suffered a DVT or PE are at high risk for another in the future. If you have already had a DVT or PE, the same healthy lifestyle changes that reduce your risk of a first DVT can reduce your risk of second event. You may also need to take special precautions to prevent blood clots.

Blood thinning drugs are given to most women and men for 3 to 12 months after their first DVT. You may need to take blood thinners for the rest of your life if you are at high risk for blood clots, including if you have genetic blood clotting problems, cancer, or have had two or more episodes of DVT in the past.

You may also be advised to wear graduated compression stockings and do leg exercises to relieve symptoms and decrease the risk of future clots and chronic vein disease. Compression stockings can cut the risk of CVI in half in women who have suffered a DVT.

Hospitalization and surgery increase your risk of suffering a DVT, especially if you have had one before. Many women and men at high risk for DVT do not receive proven preventive treatment, such as blood thinning drugs: one study of 2,017 hospitalized patients found that only 32% received proper prevention measures. Women are less likely than men (21% less likely in one study) to receive treatment to prevent DVT.

Because healthcare providers often overlook proven DVT prevention strategies, women at risk need to be proactive to ensure they receive the best possible care. Talk to your doctors or nurses about your blood clot history and ask them how you can lower your risk of blood clots. Blood thinners before and after surgical procedures can help prevent clots—ask your doctor what precautions she or he is taking to prevent a DVT during your recovery. If you need prolonged bed rest, intermittent compression therapy, in which an air pump is used to squeeze your legs and move blood through the veins, can also prevent DVT. After surgery or an illness, get up and start moving around as soon as possible.

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