This post will not be very interesting to 99% people reading. I beg you to read it.
DVT (deep vein thrombosis) and pulmonary embolism is becoming a growing problem for endurance athletes.
I want to talk about this because historically it was something that primarily affected overweight & sedentary people.
If you are a woman and take birth control pills, you have a greater chance of getting one or both. Please take extra precautions.
This is an issue of life or death. Recovery takes a very long time. If you are an endurance athlete, your plans will be put on hold for a year.
Last September, Mr. Tea went to the emergency room. They rushed him to the hospital with pulmonary embolism. (Mr. Tea was overweight and sedentary).
He almost died. the doctors told me that if he didn't go to the emergency room, he probably wouldn't have made it through the night.
PE is a silent killer. Typically, people will say, "Something is off. Something doesn't feel right".
Why are more an more athletes suffering from PE?
Endurances athletes tend to have very low heart rates which means very low blood pressure. Dehydration then thickens the blood. Thick blood + low blood pressure is a dangerous combination. Blood can pool and clot in the veins. Often times after a race, an athlete will sit around either in a car for a road trip home or on a plane for a flight home. With dehydration, low blood pressure and no movement, this becomes a deadly combination.
In addition to this, athletes who have had an injury are at a greater risk of getting blood clots, particularly PE.
How do you know if you have a blood clot?
Take a look at this article from the Mayo Clinic.
I want to stress this point. BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT COUGHING UP BLOOD DOESN'T MEAN YOU DON'T HAVE A BLOOD CLOT.
Mr. Tea did NOT cough up blood until he was several weeks into recovery.
What can you do to avoid getting blood clots?
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, especially after a race.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate during road trips and flights.
Stop every hour and get up and move for a few minutes. I do a lot of road trips. I usually stop at rest stops and either walk or jog around the parking lot.
On flights, stand up. If you can, walk up and down the aisles. If you can't, write the alphabet with your foot, bounce your legs up and down. Do something that moves your legs. If you can avoid it, don't cross your legs.
Wear compression socks during these times (and after hard effort workouts). Please note: wear compression socks not sleeves. Sleeves cut off at the ankle and can cause swelling or pooling of blood, which as you now know....is very bad.
Compression socks, however, have been shown to increase blood flow. We have learned a lot about compression over the past few months. (If you have blood clots, your doctor will probably recommend compression socks). The socks should not be uncomfortable. If they are painful at the top or cause pain anywhere, they are too tight. Most athletic compression socks are a lighter weight compression. You probably won't have problems. If you have a health issue, you can get them custom made for you and your particular issue.
The bad news is that DVT and PE can be deadly.
The good news is that we can make very small changes to prevent getting them.
These are simple, easy steps you can take to avoid getting them.
Here's the update on Mr. Tea.
After weeks of twice a day shots and about 2 months of restricted diet and overall pain, he started walking.
Since his PE (which likely started as DVT), he has lost 90lbs. He has less than 40lbs to go. He was on high blood pressure medication. Last week, his doctor told him that in another 10lbs, he will likely go off of BP medicines.
His activity is restricted to walking. He is supposed to walk as much as possible. He walks ~20 minutes, twice a day. When he was first diagnosed, he could barely walk from couch to fridge; breathing was that difficult and painful.
He is still on blood thinners, which means he has to be careful about a number of things: falling, getting a cut, anything that can cause internal bruising or bleeding.
For the past 6 months, he has been to the doctor on a regular basis for monitoring.
He will soon have his follow up appointment with his blood doctor. (We call her that. She is actually one of the best Cancer doctors in CO). At that time, they will run a bunch of tests to determine if he needs to remain on blood thinners for another 6 months or if he can move to an aspirin routine. He will have to take a daily aspirin every day for the rest of his life.