If your doctor has diagnosed you with a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) before, you’ll want to take steps to prevent another one. It’s important to talk to your doctor about your specific risk of another DVT. You can also try certain lifestyle changes to reduce your chances of getting one again.
What Makes You More Likely to Develop Another DVT?
Anyone can develop another blood clot. But your chances of a repeat DVT depends on your risk factors related to your first one. These are usually divided into inherited (or genetic) risk factors and risk factors that are acquired or related to life's circumstances.
If you had an initial blood clot due to surgery or physical trauma, and your doctor considered your risk temporary, you most likely have a low chance of another DVT.
But if your first blood clot was a surprise, and you didn’t have any risk factors, your risk of another DVT is higher. Doctors believe that in this situation, you have on average a 30% chance of getting another DVT over the 10 years following your first clot.
Other factors can put you at further risk for a future DVT. These include:
- Thrombophilia, a condition where your blood may create clots too easily
- Cancer and cancer treatments
- Pregnancy, through 6 weeks after you give birth
- Hospitalization or bed rest
- Long periods of rest (such as bed rest or long trips)
- Older age
- The use of some birth control methods (types that have estrogen)
- Hormone therapies used for menopause, breast cancer, or prostate cancer
- Heart failure
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Certain kidney problems
- If you have a tube or catheter in a main vein (you may need this if you receive medications over a long period)
- Varicose veins
What Things Can You Do to Lower Your Risk of Another DVT?
If you develop a DVT, the blood clot can break off and travel through your body to your lungs. A pulmonary embolism (PE) is a clot in the lungs, and it usually results from a DVT. It could then block the flow of blood to your lungs. This can lead to a life-threatening situation. To prevent an emergency, you can learn some ways to lower your risk of another DVT.
Get a checkup. Regular veins aren’t as likely to develop another DVT. But if you have veins with leftover clots, you may be at a higher risk for future DVTs. An ultrasound exam can give your doctor information about your chances for another DVT. They can use the information to predict the possibility of another clot.
Wear compression stockings. Your doctor might suggest you use compression stockings. These special socks can help prevent blood clots. They put extra pressure on your legs and feet to help your blood flow. You can get compression stockings in different sizes with different levels of compression. Ask your doctor about which type of compression stockings are best for you.
Boost your circulation while seated. If you work a desk job, travel a lot, or sit down for a long time in general, you should try to boost your circulation. During the day, you should get up and walk around for 5 minutes here and there.
You can also:
- Stand with both of your feet flat on the ground.
- Lift your toes up for 3 seconds while you keep your heels on the ground.
- Switch so that you keep your toes on the floor and lift your heels.
- Do five sets of these each hour that you’re seated.
If you’re in a situation where you can’t stand up, a body twist can also help. Lift your feet off the floor and move them in circles for 15 seconds on each side. This simple exercise can improve your circulation.
Stay active. A great way to prevent future DVTs is through physical activity. Regular exercise can:
- Boost your circulation
- Improve how your lungs work
- Strengthen your muscles
- Keep you at a healthy weight
All these benefits can help control your risk of another DVT. If you want to begin a workout program, ask your doctor to help you find one that’s best for you.
Following your doctor’s advice will lower your risk of another DVT. Many people who take steps to live a healthier life avoid future blood clots.
Move around while traveling. If you’re on a flight, train, or car ride for a long time, you can get poor circulation. When you go on trips, get up and walk around for a few minutes every hour. Shift your sitting position often as well. But avoid sitting with your legs crossed. It can harm blood flow.
You can also lower your risk of poor circulation through your clothing choices. On trips, wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothes.
Take breaks. Schedule time in your workday to step outside and move around. If this isn’t possible, try to take stretch breaks. Move your arms, feet, and legs to keep a healthy circulation. Set an alarm to remind yourself to take a time out.
Quit smoking. If you smoke, you have a higher risk of blood clots. Smoking also reduces your blood flow. It’s never too late to stop smoking. Ask your doctor for tips on the best way to quit.
Drink water. Staying hydrated will help keep your blood flowing and your blood vessels open. While sodas, coffee, juices, and other drinks have some water in them, it’s best to stick to plain water to hydrate.
Prepare before and after surgery. If you are about to have surgery, your doctor may give you medications to lower your chance of blood clots. These drugs will help prevent a DVT even after surgery. Your doctor may also tell you to stop certain medicines before you have surgery.
Once you get to the hospital, your medical team may suggest that you wear inflatable boots. These can squeeze your muscles to help with blood flow. After surgery, your doctor might also tell you to get up and walk every now and then. They may also advise that you elevate one of both or your feet.
Control risk factors during pregnancy. If you’re pregnant, your doctor may give you treatments or medications to prevent a DVT. They’ll do this if you have specific risk factors like:
- Inherited thrombophilia, a condition which increases your chances for clots
- Need for bed rest
- Strong family history of DVT