New Year is the time for making resolutions. If you are like me, they last for a few weeks at most but the intention is good.
For people who have had a blood clot these are three things that you might want to add to your resolutions for this year.
Take your tablets regularly
If you are taking an anticoagulant it is very important that you keep taking it regularly. This is probably more important for the new anticoagulants than warfarin. The new anticoagulants like Pradaxa and Xarelto, have a short half-life, that means that they are cleared from your blood quickly, so if you miss one or two doses your blood is no longer anticoagulated and you are at risk of a blood clot. You may be one of those people who religiously takes their medication but it is surprising how many people miss tablets or stop taking their anticoagulants completely. I have just completed a study in New Zealand looking at adherence to Pradaxa treatment using data from the national prescription database. 30% of people who start longterm Pradaxa for atrial fibrillation have stopped taking it by 6 months, and only about 10% of people take it without any breaks in treatment.
Medication doesn’t work if you don’t take it. Take your medication regularly.
This is really a no-brainer, doctors have been telling people to stop smoking for years. However it is only recently that it has become clear that there is a link between smoking and venous thrombosis. A study which has just been published in the Journal Circulation looked at a population of over 220,000 people to see if there was a link between the risk factors for heart disease and venous thrombosis. Smoking had the highest risk. So if you are a smoker and you stop, you are reducing your risk of heart disease, stroke and venous thrombosis, and of course lung cancer.
Nicotine is one of the most addictive drugs so it is not easy to stop smoking, but all hospitals and health centres will have material to help you. Don’t give up. It takes some people 4 or 5 attempts at least to stop.
If you smoke, stop today.
A DVT can often harm the veins in your legs, in particular the small valves that prevent the blood going the wrong way can be damaged by a clot and they may never recover. This can lead to swollen ankles and venous stasis with discolouration of the skin and at worst, leg ulcers. Regular exercise helps to improve the muscle tone in your calf muscles and helps to keep the blood flowing in the right direction. You do not need to do anything too strenuous, regular walking, climbing stairs or cycling are particularly good for the calves. Setting your self a target for how many steps you will do each day is a good way to encourage you to keep going.
Start regular exercise today.