When we talk about Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) we all know there is a risk associated with getting on a long haul flight. We know that we should wear flight socks and get up from our seats on a regular basis. But how many of us consider the risk of simply sitting at our desk at work? A researcher from the University of Warwick says preventing e-thrombosis should be top of our list.
“The risk associated with sitting stationary for long periods, with our legs crossed or tucked behind us, is similar to sitting on a long plane journey,” says Professor David Fitzmaurice, an expert on blood clotting, from the University of Warwick’s Medical School. “So if you are going to make a new year’s resolution this year, make it this – get up from your desk every 90 minutes. Just a brief walk to the kettle will allow the blood to flow through your legs properly and reduce your risk of developing a clot.”
Professor Fitzmaurice’s research at Warwick Medical School covers how long patients should remain on anti-clotting drugs – or anticoagulants – after suffering a blood clot in the vein, known as a venous thromboembolism (VTE). VTE is third leading cause of cardiovascular death after heart attack and stroke. In Europe more people die from VTE than from breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, road traffic accidents and hospital acquired infections combined. Professor Fitzmaurice is also carrying out trials on the possibility of patients testing their own clotting levels with a simple blood test at home, rather than travelling to hospital for tests.
“We do have treatment available for VTE, but there is no doubt prevention is better than the cure,” says Professor Fitzmaurice. “We know this because we have made big differences to the numbers of people suffering from blood clots due to spending a long time in hospital. Now in-patients on surgical wards are treated with anticoagulants before they develop a problem and given surgical socks to wear while they are immobile, to help blood flow. This has had an impressive impact on the number of people developing clots.
“We should apply this preventative approach to those at risk in the general community and we can start by raising the awareness of risk and giving people simple tools to help themselves. By introducing three simple measures into your everyday work life, there is no doubt you will reduce your risk of developing a clot. You should get up regularly, sit properly and exercise your feet every now and again. It’s that simple.”
Professor Fitzmaurice says the same applies to people who like to game online for extended periods of time. He continues: “If you are a person who likes to game, make sure you take regular breaks and keep your legs stretched out in front of you.”
Some simple techniques to help prevent blood clots at work and while gaming
1.Get up every 90 minutes and walk around - this helps the healthy flow of blood through your body. If you're at the office, grab a colleague and go and make a drink. Set an alarm on your phone or computer to remind you to do this.
2.Take care of your sitting position. Try not to cross your legs. Don’t tuck your legs behind you under your chair, stretch them out in front of you. This prevents compartmentalisation – where blood stays in sections of your body because flow is restricted.
3.Exercise your feet. Rotate your ankles and flex your toes every so often. This helps the blood flow through your lower legs while you are sitting at your desk.
David Fitzmaurice is a GP and Professor of Cardiorespiratory Primary Care at the University of Warwick.
He has a longstanding research interest in cardiovascular disease, in particular oral anticoagulation management. He was one of the first GPs awarded an MRC Career Scientist Award based on this research, enabling him to develop as one of the primary care research leaders of today.
Professor Fitzmaurice is teaching lead for The Cardiovascular Programme at the University of Warwick.