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Travel Smart—Make Plans to Keep Your Body Moving

Updated: Jul 9, 2022

I’ve just returned from a conference and car fatigue was the catalyst for today’s post. One of the key things to remember in laying out your travel plans is to consider how to get the exercise in. When you’re traveling it’s not all about burning calories and keeping the energy level up—get that body moving to avoid deep vein thrombosis or DVT. DVT is the formation of alias blood clots. These clots can break off, travel through the bloodstream and lodge in the lungs. If they lodge in the lungs, they’re a pulmonary embolism (PE). This ailment can affect all of us, even the most seasoned road warriors whose professions make traveling a necessity and not an option.

A few years ago, professional tennis player Serena Williams developed blood clots in her leg that lodged in her lungs and required surgery. Athletes considering themselves in great shape may be reluctant to consider an atypical body ailment serious. But DVT can be life-threatening, and we should all take steps to avoid developing this condition.

This problem can be caused by a number of factors, and I’m going to focus on immobility which may be the result of prolonged travel and sitting in a car or on long airplane flights. Hospitalization, surgery, and obesity can also lead to immobility. Symptoms of DVT include pain, swelling, warmth and redness—you may have several of these symptoms or none of the symptoms. If any of these symptoms occur in combination with chest pain, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing, you should seek medical attention immediately.

When traveling consider wearing compression socks that will help reduce any swelling and avoid crossing your legs for prolonged periods of time. If you are driving several hours, stop every hour to walk around. If air travel is your plan, move around in the plane cabin, flex your feet and curl or press your toes down often during your trip. If you have connecting flights, take a walk through the terminal. Drink plenty of fluids and avoid dehydrating beverages such as alcohol and coffee.

When hospitalized, try to keep the foot of the bed elevated and get up and walk about as soon as you can. If post-surgery moving about is creating pain or discomfort, talk to the health professionals and take any medications that are prescribed to make you more comfortable. Doctors may also prescribe leg lifts or ankle exercises to help you avoid DVT.

Maintain an active lifestyle by including exercise as part of your daily routine. Focus on weight management by making wholesome food choices that are lower in fat and calories.

Check your blood pressure regularly and if needed take steps to reduce it. If you’re a smoker change your behavior and stop smoking. You may need help in weaning off of cigarettes, if so, talk to your healthcare provider about smoking cessation aids.

I’m not trying to frighten you, but I do want you to know the facts and consider how you can make choices to ensure that your travels are enjoyable and memorable for all the right reasons.

TAKE AWAY: When travel is on the horizon, be proactive and plan to keep your body moving to avoid problems with blood clots.

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