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, you must 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, which means they are cleared from your blood quickly. 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 who religiously takes their medication, but it is surprising how many miss tablets or stop taking their anticoagulants completely. I published a study in New Zealand looking at adherence to Pradaxa treatment using data from the national prescription database. 30% of people who start long-term 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 over the last 10 years that it has become clear that there is a link between smoking and venous thrombosis. The link is not strong, but if you have other risk factors for heart disease, smoking increases the risk of both heart problems and venous thrombosis.
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.
Exercise Regularly – Get out and “Spread your legs”
A DVT can often harm the veins in your legs. In particular, they damage the small valves that prevent the blood from going the wrong way. They may never recover. This can lead to swollen ankles and venous stasis with discolouration of the skin and, at worst, leg ulcers.
Last year we, unfortunately, spent a lot of time locked down, but hopefully this year things will improve and you will be able to get out more. Regular exercise helps to improve the muscle tone in your calf muscles and helps 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 yourself a target for how many steps you will do each day is an excellent way to encourage you to keep going.
I wouldn’t dare say get out and “spread your legs“, but you know what I mean.
Start regular exercise today.