WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) -- Every year, nearly 180,000 people die from a pulmonary embolism also known as a deep vein thrombosis.
It starts with a sharp pain in the leg and can lead to a shortness of breath. Our WUSA 9 Call For Action Shirley Rooker shares some helpful steps you can take if you're planning to take a long flight.
Shirley says, "I had just arrived home from a business trip to Florida when I started having pain in my left leg and thought it was a pulled muscle. By the end of that week, I began to have sharp pain in my left side, just above the waist, and a shortness of breath."
Shirley had developed a pulmonary embolism. The blood clot in her leg had traveled to her lung and she became very sick. She says the next couple of months were very difficult. She is fine now.
How Did It Happen?
"The first thing I did wrong was fall asleep on the flight. I did not get up and move around during the two and half hour flight. Also, I may have been dehydrated from physical exercise," she says.
Shirley worked out the morning of her trip and believes that could have contributed to the blood clot.
Studies suggest that people who are athletic and have a low resting heart rate are more susceptible to blood clots. A couple of years ago, tennis star Serena Williams made headlines when she was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism shortly after an airplane flight.
Runners and Blood Clots. What You Need To Know
There are some inherited genetic disorders that affect blood clotting. "Since, my DVT, I have learned that I have Factor V Leiden which makes me somewhat more predisposed to blood clots.
Living With Thrombophilia
Other risk factors include taking oral contraceptives, recent surgery and a previous clot.
What Can Travelers Do To Avoid The Same Problem
Drink plenty of liquids. However, alcohol and caffeinated sodas can be dehydrating and should be taken in modest amounts or avoided altogether.
One of the best things you can do is move around the plane. If that's difficult, then try exercises in your seat. You must be sure to them on a regular basis.
If you think you might fall asleep during a long flight and you can't elevate your legs, ask your doctor if there are other precautions you should take during the flight such as wearing compression hose or taking medication.
Patients And Blood Clot Disorders
There are some exercises you can do during the flight that may help prevent blood clots.
Airline Exercises To Prevent Blood Clots
A blood clot and the possibility of a pulmonary embolism are very serious health threats. If you suspect a problem contact your doctor immediately.
WUSA 9 Call For Action