Deep Vein Thrombosis Causes Risk Obesity

Research shows that obesity causes men and women to be more likely to develop deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a serious blood clotting condition that occurs in deep veins in the legs. By medical standards, obesity is determined by the ratio of a person’s body fat versus his height. While a person of “normal” weight for his frame would have a Body Mass Index (BMI) that ranges between 18.5 and 24.9, those who are obese have one of the following BMI numbers:

  • Mild obesity: BMI between 30 and 40
  • Morbid obesity: BMI between 40 and 50
  • Super obesity: BMI over 50.

Why Does Obesity Cause DVT?

DVT can develop as a result of physical inactivity, causing long-term health problems including:

  • discoloration
  • leg pain
  • leg sores
  • swelling
  • vein damage.

More seriously, these types of clots, particularly if above the knee, can also break off and travel through the blood stream, causing a pulmonary embolism, a life threatening condition in which a blood clot obstructs the lungs.

While obese men and women are at a higher risk for developing DVT and pulmonary embolism, these conditions are most common in obese women below the age of 40. In fact, obese women under the age of 40 are six times more likely to develop DVT than their non-obese counterparts. For obese men under the age 40, the risk is three times higher than it is for non-obese men.

DVT Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

DVT usually occurs in a deep vein in the leg, but it can also develop in the arm or other deep veins throughout the body. Common symptoms of DVT include:

  • general calf pain
  • increased calf pain that worsens when standing or walking
  • unusual swelling of the calf.

In the process of diagnosing DVT, doctors review a patient’s family history, perform an ultrasound scan (namely, a Doppler ultrasound) and take a venography. A venography is a type of x-ray taken after dye has been injected into a vein to evaluate blood flow and identify potential obstructions.

Although the use of anticoagulant medications (sometimes called blood thinners) is the most common treatment for DVT, thrombolytics (medications that dissolve blood clots in extreme cases) are also prescribed to some patients.

In addition, patients may wear compression stockings to relieve pain and swelling. For those who are at a higher risk for developing DVT, such as obese people, experts recommend 30 minutes of walking daily.

Obesity and Deep Vein Thrombosis

To prevent health risks such as DVT, it is important for people of all ages to have a healthy BMI. For obese people, targeting a range of 30 or less is a reasonable goal. How to achieve that goal, however, will vary depending on how obese a person is. For example, extremely obese people may not be able to jump into starting exercise. The primary ways to manage obesity and return to a healthy weight are:

  • FDA-approved weight loss medications
  • lifestyle modifications, including traditional changes to exercise and diet, namely adopting a diet that specifically targets the DVT risks
  • weight loss surgery.

Weight Loss Medications

In some cases of severe obesity, physicians will recommend FDA-approved weight-loss medications. When used properly, these medications can help patients to reduce their appetites, which can then result in weight loss. Keep in mind, however, that these medications should only be taken according to directions, with a prescription and under the careful monitoring of a physician.

Because some weight loss drugs have been taken off the market due to serious side effects, research the possible side effects before selecting a weight loss medication.

Lifestyle: Altering Diet and Exercise

Traditional changes to your lifestyle that can help you lose weight include eating healthy and adding a regular exercise regimen to your daily routine. While the proper nutrition revolves around cutting out fast food and trans fat from your diet, exercising can be as simple as walking for 30 minutes a few times each week.

After checking with a physician for recommended changes, each individual can select a plan that will best meet his or her needs. For some, nutritional changes often make a significant difference. In most cases, however, nutritional changes, along with a healthy dose of regular exercise three to five days a week, are needed to drop the weight.

Weight Loss Surgery

For those who are super obese, bariatric surgery is an extreme weight management technique. Although bariatric surgery is usually performed on those who have a BMI over 40, it can help people with a BMI over 35 who also have weight-related health issues including DVT. During bariatric surgery, a patient’s stomach size is reduced either by removing part of it or by placing a band around it. In either scenario, the smaller stomach has a significantly reduced capacity to hold food, forcing an individual to eat less.

Bariatric surgery is often considered a last resort for obese individuals who have tried numerous weight loss techniques, diets and exercise programs without success. While surgery is an initial solution, a person also has to make a series of lifestyle changes once he or she has gone through the procedure. For example, because the size of a patient’s stomach has been reduced, he will have to dramatically cut his caloric intake.

For highly motivated patients who couple surgery with lifestyle changes, weight loss surgery can provide an opportunity for permanent weight loss. For others who maintain an unhealthy lifestyle, weight can be regained within 24 months of surgery.

Regardless of the selected method, under a physician’s care, these obesity management techniques can help to reduce the risk for DVT.

Resources

Anne Collins (2007). Guide to Successful Obesity Management. Retrieved June 21, 2007 from http://www.annecollins.com/obesity-management.htm.

Anne Collins (2007). Obesity Information. Retrieved June 21, 2007 from http://www.annecollins.com/obesity.htm.

BUPA (2006). Deep Vein Thrombosis. Retrieved June 21, 2007 from http://hcd2.bupa.co.uk/fact_sheets/mosby_factsheets/Deep_Vein_Thrombosis.html.

WebMD (n.d.). Deep Vein Thrombosis: A Topic Overview. Retrieved June 21, 2007 from http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/tc/Deep-Vein-Thrombosis-Topic-Overview.

Web MD. Hitti, Miranda. Obesity Ups Risk of DVT and Pulmonary Embolism. September 9, 2005. Retrieved June 21, 2007 from. http://www.webmd.com/news/20050909/obesity-ups-risk-of-pulmonary-embolism-dvt .