Did you know that people who sit for less than 30 minutes at a time have the lowest risk of an early death?
Leading a sedentary lifestyle has been linked to so many health problems, including cardiovascular disease and cancer, that it makes laying on the couch and binge-watching your favorite show way less appealing.
It is also a major risk factor for a potentially fatal condition known as Deep-Vein Thrombosis.
What is Deep-Vein Thrombosis (DVT)?
Prolonged periods of sitting and a generally inactive existence put you at risk of DVT, a type of blood clot that develops in the deep veins of your body found typically in your leg or arm. This type of clot is especially dangerous since it poses the threat of breaking off and traveling to major organs of the body like the heart or lungs. If this occurs, decreased blood flow to the major organs caused by the clot could be potentially fatal.
In addition to a sedentary lifestyle, other risk factors of this ‘sitting disease’ include a pre-existing clotting disorder, hormonal birth control, obesity, and any injury or surgery-related bed rest.
Symptoms of DVT to watch out for include cramping in the calf that spreads, red or discolored skin, and swelling of the leg, ankle, or foot.
What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk
DVT can strike anyone, no matter age or gender. But the good news is that simple lifestyle changes are the easiest ways to lower your risk.
1) Get Active - Regular movement is a great way to prevent DVT since it will promote healthy blood flow throughout the body. Make it a goal to get up and walk around every hour throughout the day. Frequent workouts should also be made a priority since this will help you maintain a healthy weight and further lower your risk.
2) Quit Smoking - Smoking, either cigarettes or e-cigarettes, can damage the lining of blood vessels and make your blood more prone to clotting. If the risk of DVT isn’t enough to make you abandon the habit, smoking has also been linked to other serious health issues like lung cancer, stroke, and cardiovascular disease.
3) Do Seated Leg Exercises - If you spend long hours working at a desk or are a frequent traveler, seated leg exercises can be also done to lower your risk of DVT.
- Ankle circles - Raise one leg and move your ankle in a circular motion for 15 rotations. Repeat with the other leg.
- Seated leg raises - Lift one leg off the ground and hold up straight for at least 2 seconds. Repeat with the other leg.
4) Take Blood Thinners - Anticoagulants (blood thinners) are a common course of treatment if you do suffer a DVT. But sometimes, pre-existing conditions or other health events like major surgery require this medication to also lower your risk. If this is the case, be sure to talk to your doctor about the options available to you in order to choose the one best suited for your lifestyle. Two common options are:
- Coumadin (warfarin) - This traditional anticoagulant requires regular blood tests to monitor the blood’s clotting abilities and ensure that the correct dosage is being given. Individuals on this blood thinner should also avoid foods high in Vitamin K, such as spinach and kale, since this is a natural antidote of the medication.
- Xarelto (rivaroxaban) - This newer anticoagulant is an oral medication that was approved in 2011 without an antidote to reverse its blood-thinning effects. It does not require dietary changes or weekly blood tests, making it a convenient option for most patients. However, any minor fall or injury could lead to severe internal bleeding complications and even death because of the drug’s lack of antidote. This inability to reverse the medication’s effects has also led to a series of legal claims against the manufacturer, so be sure to weigh the pros and cons with your doctor.
This year, don’t let a sedentary lifestyle lead to DVT or its dangerous complications. Make it a priority to get active, whether it’s through frequent walks, workout classes, or outdoor adventures. Pay attention to any symptoms your body may be exhibiting and do your best to spread the word and help others avoid the "sitting disease."