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Living Life at its Best: Travel Wisely This Summer

Jun 30, 2015 12:07PM ● By Cate Reynolds
Do you remember David Bloom? He was an especially charismatic and trusted NBC News reporter and weekend anchor. Twelve years ago, many thought he was being groomed to succeed the soon-to-retire Tom Brokaw. That’s why Bloom was tapped to be an “embedded” journalist covering the war in Iraq, spending long days and nights in cramped conditions inside army vehicles. On April 5, 2003, Bloom collapsed and died outside Baghdad from a pulmonary embolism caused by deep vein thrombosis. He was only 39 years old. “DVT” had entered the American lexicon in a big way.

It is believed that his condition was exacerbated by dehydration and the fact that he had spent much of the previous few weeks taking long flights between assignments.

We all know that extended flying in economy-class seats can take their toll on our health—in addition to the perfectly normal stress caused by hurling through space in a metal can, there’s airplane air, infuriating delays, and unruly passengers with whom to cope. Long drives have their own potential pitfalls (two kids/one iPad). But few of us consider the possibility of developing DVT. But the risk is real.

The Harvard Women’s Health Watch recently warned about developing blood clots in the legs during hours of sitting in planes, trains, or automobiles. “If a blood clot grows in a leg vein, it can interfere with circulation in the leg, causing pain and swelling.” The report continues, “Sometimes a small piece of the clot breaks off and travels to another part of the body.” According to the CDC, between 60,000 and 100,000 Americans die from pulmonary embolism each year. They also point out that “sudden death” is the first symptom in about 25 percent of cases of DVT/PE.


Here are some preventive measures we can take to avoid that fate:

Wear compression stockings.
They exert more pressure at the ankle than at the calf.

Move around.
Take a break every hour. When on a plane, bus, or train, walk the aisles; when driving, stop at a rest area. While seated, practice tracing the letters of the alphabet in the air with one foot, then the other, using the big toe as a “pen point.”

Stay awake.
Don’t take a sleeping pill. A long nap in a seated position lets blood pool in the legs.

Keep hydrated.
Drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol, which is dehydrating. Staying hydrated may mean more bathroom visits, but getting up and walking down the aisle keeps blood circulating.

Wear loose clothing.
It’s less likely to restrict blood flow.

Ask a doctor about taking low-dose aspirin. 
There is some evidence that taking a baby aspirin before a trip can prevent blood clots.


What’s Up? does not give medical advice. This material is simply a discussion of current information, trends, and topics. Please seek the advice of a physician before making any changes to your lifestyle or routine.