People urged to learn risk factors to prevent deadly blood clots

Published 12:21 pm Monday, August 9, 2021

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BIRMINGHAM — The pandemic has heightened attention to the dangers of blood clots including deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism and clot-provoked stroke.

According to the National Blood Clot Alliance (NBCA), blood clots kill 274 Americans each day when they restrict blood flow and cause a medical emergency. While different types of blood clotting are being reported among people affected by COVID-19, particularly those who become severely ill after infection with the virus, everyone is at risk for blood clots regardless of age, gender or race.

Obesity, smoking, hypertension and a personal or family history of blood clots increase your chances of developing clots. Women’s risk is increased by birth control pills, pregnancy and hormone replacement therapy. People at the highest risk include those with clotting disorders, atrial fibrillation (Afib), cancer, traumatic injury, lengthy immobility and surgery.

Three steps can help with prevention of blood clots—maintain a healthy weight, stay hydrated and move regularly. Drinking plenty of water and fluids helps keep your blood from thickening. Particularly when sitting for long periods such as on flights or car trips, get up and walk every 60-90 minutes and stretch your calf muscles frequently to keep the blood flowing in your legs.

Individuals with Afib should talk with their primary care physician about the benefits and risks of taking a blood thinner to reduce the risk of clots and stroke.

“Symptoms such a lower extremity swelling, tenderness or redness should be of concern, sometimes described as a sensation of a cramp or pulled muscle, this may correspond to a DVT or Deep Vein Thrombosis, a blot clot in the veins,” said Alvaro Aldana, M.D., cardiologist at Alabama Cardiovascular Group, an affiliate of Grandview Medical Center. “This may result on the blood clot migrating to the lungs and causing a pulmonary thromboembolism (PTE), which could be a serious and on occasion, a life threatening condition. Pulmonary embolism presents with sudden onset of shortness of breath, chest pain that worsens with deep breathing, fast heart rate or breathing, or even a passing out spell. These symptoms should prompt an urgent emergency room visit.”

Know the symptoms so you can get help quickly, potentially saving your life or the life a friend or family member.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, documented symptoms for blood clots in deep veins of your leg and thighs include increased leg swelling, skin that is warm to the touch, red or discolored, pain in a leg that feels like a pulled muscle but not caused by injury, tightness, cramping or soreness, or a throbbing sensation. If you experience any of these signs or symptoms, alert your doctor as soon as possible.

“Blood clots are treatable when discovered early, usually a simple noninvasive lower extremity Doppler ultrasound would suffice for the diagnosis. If a pulmonary embolism is suspected, then a chest CT scan would be needed for the diagnosis. Management includes blood thinners, local infusions with a strong clot dissolver, or even thrombectomy (extraction of the blood clots via suction),” Aldana said.

The most common signs and symptoms of a pulmonary embolism caused by a blood clot that is blocking blood flow in the lungs are difficulty breathing, chest pain that worsens with a deep breath or cough, coughing up blood and a faster-than-normal or irregular heartbeat. Seek medical treatment immediately when you experience any of these signs and symptoms.

If you need help finding a cardiologist, call 205-971-DOCS or visit to be connected with one of Grandview’s qualified cardiologists.