Deep Vein Thrombosis Causes Risk Aging

Approximately one in 1,000 people develop deep vein thrombosis every year. Among elderly people, the rate increases five times, with about five out of every 1,000 elderly people developing DVT.

Aging increases the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in a number of ways. As people age, they become less active and their cardiopulmonary systems slow down. This contributes to DVT by lowering the blood flow through the body, which increases the likelihood of developing blood clots in the deep veins.

DVT Definition and Symptoms

When a person develops blood clots in the deep veins of his body (i.e. the veins that run through their muscles), they suffer from deep vein thrombosis. These clots block the normal flow of blood, causing blood to sit and pool in that particular area of the body.

While some people who have DVT don’t experience any symptoms, others may suffer from:

  • discolored skin
  • sharp pain
  • skin discoloration
  • swelling
  • warmth in the affected area.

DVT Risk Factors

Deep vein thrombosis occurs most frequently in elderly patients recovering from surgery or undergoing long periods of hospital treatment. DVT can also occur as a result of injury to the muscles and veins.

Elderly people who are overweight or have diabetes are at additional risk of developing deep vein thrombosis. Both afflictions weaken the deep veins, reduce normal blood flow and can limit the amount of physical activity a person is capable of performing.

Preventing Deep Vein Thrombosis

The elderly can take a number of measures to prevent deep vein thrombosis, including:

  • Exercising:The most effective preventative measure is regular exercise. Walking and swimming keep muscles active and encourage healthy blood flow. These types of exercise are especially recommended for the elderly because they are low-impact exercises that also promote joint health.

    If such activities are not possible, simple exercises like clenching and unclenching the feet and rotating the ankles can also be effective ways to prevent DVT. In the event that a person is bedridden or immobile, caregivers can perform regular massage and assisted movement exercises to help circulate the blood.

  • Maintaining a healthy diet: Eating healthy by following a low-fat, high-fiber diet is a large part of preventing DVT. Keep in mind that foods that are high in vitamin K (such as Swiss chard, spinach and pine nuts) can interact with anticoagulant medications and reduce their effectiveness.
  • Taking medication: Doctors may also prescribe anticoagulant medication to prevent and treat DVT. The medications can be taken orally or via injection. Anticoagulants work by thinning the blood and increasing circulation.
  • Wearing graduated compression stockings: This type of hose can be worn to help prevent and treat DVT. Compression stockings apply pressure to the lower legs, helping to prevent the pooling of blood and encourage healthier circulation. Compression stockings can be purchased over the counter at most pharmacies and medical supply stores.

If you feel you may be at risk of developing deep vein thrombosis, contact a doctor. Diagnosis of the condition does not require invasive examination and is almost always treatable. If left untreated among the elderly, DVT can lead to open sores, chronic muscle pain and recurrent thrombosis, which may require surgery.

Resources

Cornforth, Tracee (2003). What are the Symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis? Retrieved June 21, 2007 from the About.com Web site: http://womenshealth.about.com/cs/azhealthtopics/a/deepveinthrombo_2.htm.

National Heart Blood and Lung Institute (2007).How is Deep Vein Thrombosis Treated? Retrieved June 21 2007, from the National Heart Blood and Lung Institute Web site: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/Dvt/DVT_Treatments.html.