By Jan Schroder
I’ve spent a lot of time on airplanes the past few months. And not in the stretch-your-legs-out comfort of a first class seat either. I am so not complaining — even though I had a 22-hour day returning from Ireland earlier this week, I would do it again to see the smilin’ Irish eyes on the Emerald Isle.
But I did worry about possible health problems from being seated for so long in one position. We turned to an expert to get some tips on how to avoid problems with blood circulation on long trips, which can lead to blood clots and other short- and long-term health problems. David A. Martin, a registered nurse, clinical director and the President and CEO of VeinInnovations, Atlanta’s leading vein health and treatment clinic, offers several tips for people traveling this season to keep the blood flowing.
- While sitting, do heel- and toe-raises to flex the calf muscles every 15 or 20 minutes. This muscle flexing will help keep blood moving in the veins even if you can’t get up.
- If possible, get up and walk around at least every two hours. As with heel- and toe-raises, walking around for just a few minutes will get blood circulating faster in the legs. On a plane or train this may mean walking up and down the aisle a couple of times during the trip. If driving, work a quick walk around the parking lot into your stops for gas, if you switch drivers or other breaks.
- While traveling, stay hydrated by drinking some water. Being dehydrated can cause your blood to thicken and make the formation of blood clots more likely.
- If you’re not allergic and have no history of stomach problems, take one adult aspirin per day while traveling. This will also help thin the blood and reduce the chances of blood clots.
- Wear compressions garment like stockings or leggings. These will help keep blood flowing more efficiently even when you can’t move around. These garments also have the side benefit of helping to keep you warmer on those long road trips in our country’s cooler regions.
- If possible, elevate your feet above your heart a few times during a long trip. Even if only for 30 seconds while sitting in the back seat of a car. This will also help keep blood from pooling in the legs.
“Sitting for long periods of time is a big cause of leg blood clots, which can move to the lungs and cause serious medical issues,” David said. “This is especially true in situations like an airplane or a car full of luggage and gifts where you’re not in an ideal position and can’t stretch your legs. Everyone can benefit from following these tips while traveling to keep blood moving and reduce their chances of having blood clot issues.”