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Don’t Be Passive About Blood Clots

By on May 1, 2018
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Take Steps Now to Prepare for a Long Retirement

BY: DR. JOHN McELLIGOTT, DR. JOHN’S MEDICAL SOLUTIONS

In the March-April issue, I talked about sedentary job risks. In this issue, I’d like to expand on that topic to include the dangers of blood clots. If there’s one thing you need to know about life in the fast lane, it’s that not taking care of your health will soon force you into the slow lane. Avoid healthy life choices, and that’s where you’ll end up—slowing down, pulling over, and possibly ending your driving career prematurely, and maybe even your life.

It’s a sad fact that truckers die at a younger age than people in other occupations. While the reasons can vary widely among individuals, sitting without movement is now recognized as the biggest risk factor for blood clots in the legs, thighs, lungs (pulmonary embolism or PE), and heart vessels. Clots in these areas are among the top 10. While estimates vary widely, there are between 300,000 and 900,000 blood clot cases each year. From 100,000 to 300,000 people die from blood clots in the legs or lungs each year. The numbers are on the higher side with a sedentary lifestyle. Sudden death is often the first symptom!

On average, truckers are 5′-8″ tall and weigh 242 pounds. Combine smoking, sleep apnea, diabetes, hypertension, and/or sitting most of the work shift, and you’re a ticking time bomb! If this article scares you into healthier living, good; that’s exactly what I intend.

90-Minute Limit

Sedentary activity for 90 minutes or more at a time is a major cause of all-cause mortality. Keep in mind sleep time and quality of sleep along with long periods of sitting are double trouble for your health. Both affect longevity. Even moderate activity 60 minutes a day may offset this path to early death, but not always, especially if you have any of the above risk factors.

Where do blood clots start? Most are found in the lower calf on the inner side or thigh and occasionally in the arm vessels that run to the upper chest. Tenderness and redness may be the early symptoms if the inflammation is superficial with or without a clot. However, if the clot forms in deeper veins of the upper chest or legs, the first symptom may be shortness of breath and coughing up blood along with chest pain as the clot moves to the lungs. The latter can be fatal, and in some cases, fast. Age is not a predictor and remember, 50% of DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) have no symptoms.

It’s a sad fact that truckers die at a younger age than people in other occupations.

Causes of blood clot formation can be obvious like post trauma, recent surgery, recent travel lasting for more than four hours by airplane, and, of course, sitting in a car or truck for 2-3 hours straight. Then there are causes that only doctors know about unfortunately! Following is the short list, and each is a book!

  • Antiphospholipid syndrome.
  • Arteriosclerosis / atherosclerosis.
  • Certain medications, such as oral contraceptives and hormone therapy drugs for menopause
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
  • Factor V Leiden.
  • Family history
  • Pregnancy and childbirth

Doctors must also think about underlying cancer as a cause. Where? The brain, ovaries, pancreas, colon, stomach, lungs, and kidneys have the highest risk of DVT and PE. Lymphomas, leukemia, and liver cancer are also more likely to lead to DVT/PE.

Preventive Action

How do you prevent clots before they end up in places that can end your career?

Blood clots are just one of the complications of operating a big rig. If the above text describes your body type and your average day, then you may need to change your lifestyle. Easy to say, but hard to do since hours of service (HOS) are difficult to manage and stopping regularly to increase activity is a big challenge.

  • Thinking about clot prevention, I keep going back to four basics:
  • Lose weight; eat healthy food and less of it
  • Stop smoking (stop all tobacco use)
  • Moderate or stop alcohol use entirely
  • Exercise (walk, walk, walk when not driving)

The last item is difficult, I know, especially as an over-the-road driver.
Here are a few things you can do while driving that helps keep blood flowing:

  • Stretch your toes toward you head as far as you can and then curl them down toward the floor of the cab. Do this with each foot three to five times every hour.
  • With your foot flat on the cab floor, rotate your foot up from your heal toward your head and then point your toes back down to the floor (keep your heal on the floor). Try to flex and relax your calves with each movement. Do this three to five times an hour.
  • Float your foot in the air and rotate it at the ankle ten times in both directions. Do this three to five times an hour.
  • If you have room and it is safe to do so, lift your leg and straighten it out. Flex and relax your thigh muscle briefly. Do this with both legs, if safe, three to five times an hour.
  • Do some shoulder rolls. Keep the blood flowing.

This sounds like a lot, but once you get into the habit, you will go through this routine without even thinking about it. So, remember my friends, “Truckers who walk a lot and walk fast live longer!” God bless you. To learn more about Dr. John’s Medical Solutions, go to docjmd.com.

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