Health Library

Get Moving to Prevent Blood Clots

Blood clots help to stop bleeding at injury sites. However, blood clots can also form when they are not needed. It can happen when blood pools because of injuries, surgery, or periods of inactivity. These clots can block blood flow in the area, most often legs. They can also break off and cause serious problems in vital organs like the heart, lungs, or brains.

The good news is that there is a very simple tool to prevent blood clots, just move. Here’s how to get started.

Know Your Risk

Blood clots happen when you are not active. Your activity level may be low if you are:

  • In the hospital for a sickness, accident, or surgery
  • In a nursing home for long-term care
  • Traveling for 4 hours or more without breaks
  • Being treated for long-term health problems that affect blood flow, like heart failure

Keep Clots from Forming

Clots form when blood flow slows. This allows blood to pool and clots to form. Blood flow increases when you are active. This forces blood to keep moving and makes it hard for unneeded clots to form. Regular activity is best but even short walks throughout the day can help. Activity that can help includes:

  • Walk as soon as you are allowed after surgery. Follow your care team’s recommendations.
  • Talk to your doctor if you have trouble being active. A change in treatment or care plan may be needed.
  • Do not sit for long periods of time. This may be because of a desk job, travel, or watching TV.
    • Take a short stroll or stretch in regular intervals.
    • Have purposeful movement at least once per hour.
    • Do calf exercises and heel/toe lifts to keep your blood moving.

Signs of a Problem

Some people with blood clots do not have any signs. Call your doctor right away if you have:

  • Problems breathing
  • Chest pain
  • A fast heartbeat
  • Lightheadedness
  • Cough with or without blood
  • Arm or leg:
    • Swelling
    • Pain or cramping
    • Redness and warmth

Resources

American Lung Association
https://www.lung.org

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
http://www.cdc.gov

Canadian Resources

Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
http://www.heartandstroke.ca

References

Blood clot risk and what you can do. National Blood Clot Alliance website. Available at: https://www.stoptheclot.org/learn%5Fmore/dvt/. Accessed May 7, 2019.

Information for patients about blood clot prevention. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/armstrong%5Finstitute/improvement%5Fprojects/infections%5Fcomplications/VTE/patients.html. Accessed May 7, 2019.

Understanding your risk for excessive blood clotting. American Heart Association website. Available at: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/venous-thromboembolism/understand-your-risk-for-excessive-blood-clotting. Accessed May 7, 2019.

Your guide to preventing and treating blood clots. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality website. Available at: https://www.ahrq.gov/patients-consumers/prevention/disease/bloodclots.html#symptoms. Updated August 2017. Accessed May 7, 2019.