5 Ways to Help Prevent a Pulmonary Embolism

When one of the arteries that carries blood from your heart to your lungs gets blocked, you have what doctors call a pulmonary embolism, or PE.

Most of the time, this happens after a blood clot forms deep in a vein, normally in your leg. Doctors call this deep vein thrombosis, or DVT. If the clot breaks off and travels to your lungs, it can block your blood flow, causing a PE.

The best way to prevent a PE is to try to stop blood clots from forming deep in your veins. This can be challenging if you’ve been on bed rest after a surgery or illness, or just took a long flight. That’s because DVTs tend to form after you’ve been immobile for long periods of time.

If you’re at risk, here are five things that may help lower your chances of developing these dangerous blood clots:

1.  Blood Thinners

Doctors call these “anticoagulants.” They keep your blood from forming clots. Your doctor may prescribe them to you while you’re in the hospital for surgery. He might also suggest you keep taking them for some time after you go home.

Your doctor might also recommend blood thinners if you’ve been hospitalized after a stroke or heart attack, or have complications from cancer.

2. Compression Stockings

These are long socks that squeeze your legs. The extra pressure helps blood move through your veins and leg muscles. Your doctor may recommend you wear them for a while after surgery.

3. Exercise

Get out of bed and walk when you’re getting over a long stay in the hospital or an illness that’s kept you in bed for too long. It’ll keep the blood in your legs flowing so it doesn’t have a chance to pool.

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4. Stretching During Trips

If you’re on a long flight, try to walk up and down the aisles every 30 minutes or so. If you can’t stand up, flex your ankles by pulling your toes toward you.

Here’s another stretch you can try to do while seated:

  1. Pull your leg up toward your chest with one hand.
  2. Hold the bottom of that leg with the other hand.
  3. Keep this pose for 15 seconds, then try it with the other leg.
  4. Do this up to 10 times per hour.

If you’re driving a long distance, stop every hour and stretch your legs.

Also, be sure to drink extra fluids to help you stay hydrated.

5. Lifestyle Changes

Along with exercise, there are a number of steps you can take going forward. Here are some important ones:

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • If you plan to take hormones, like birth control or replacement therapy, talk to your doctor about your risk for blood clots.
  • If you have other health issues, like diabetes or heart failure, take your meds, watch what you eat, and talk to your doctor about any changes.
  • Also talk to your doctor if you have a history of kidney disease or certain autoimmune diseases or a family history of blood clots
  • If you smoke, quit.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on December 24, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

Gov.UK: “Preventing Pulmonary Embolism.”

Mayo Clinic: “Pulmonary Embolism: Self-management.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Blood Clots and Travel: What You Need to Know.”

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