Few medical conditions are as frightening as a pulmonary embolism (PE). This is a blood clot that travels through the body and into the lungs. Subsequently, the affected area of the lung dies, resulting in pain, shortness of breath and even death.
Pulmonary Embolism Is Difficult to Diagnose
According to a 2008 study that was published in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 25 percent of PE cases go undiagnosed until the patient dies. Nobody expects to suffer from PE especially if they have no family history of the condition. But should you be worried about developing an embolism?
Risk Factors for PE
Embolism risk factors include heart disease, cancer, surgery and prolonged bed rest. In cases such as these, a physician would administer or prescribe medication to cut the risk of clots developing. Unfortunately, there are certain aspects of everyday life that can also put you at risk for PE:
Prolonged Sitting: Traveling and desk jobs can both put a person in danger of developing a dangerous clot in the legs. When the knees bend for extended lengths of time, the blood pools in the lower extremities and does not circulate efficiently.
To combat this, get up and move around every hour while on long road trips. If driving, pull over and walk around the car; if on a plane, get up and move around the cabin. Perhaps the most effective preventative measure is wearing an anti embolism stocking on each leg.
These apply slight pressure to your lower legs, thus helping your blood circulate. Be sure to get up and stretch regularly. You may also perform leg exercises at your station. Try sitting with your feet flat on the floor, then tensing your calf muscles as you push your knees up with your toes.
Pregnancy: The pressure of a growing child puts stress on veins and arteries, restricting blood flow. Pregnant women should speak to their doctors if they feel pain or weakness in their legs, and if put on bed rest, ask what can be done to reduce the risk of PE.
Birth Control Pills and Hormone Replacement Therapy: If you introduce extra estrogen into the body, clots are more likely to form.
Excess Weight: Being overweight can cause a host of health problems. Extra pounds put a strain on every process of the body, including the circulatory system.
Take steps now to get within a healthy weight range to lower your risk of developing serious health problems later in life. If you suffer from weight-related disabilities now, talk to your doctor about your risk factors for embolisms.
Smoking: Although it is unclear why, tobacco use can make certain people highly susceptible to deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and PE. Smoking also increases other risk factors. If you smoke, make an effort to quit now.
Medical emergencies often come on suddenly and without warning. However, being proactive and taking charge of your health can help prevent many debilitating diseases, including sudden death from pulmonary embolism.