If something can delay the Secretary of State from doing her job, you know itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s dangerous. Hillary Clinton was recently released from the hospital after being treated for a blood clot near her brain. The good news: Clinton has made a full recovery and is back to work. The bad news: Most women arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t aware of the risk factors and warning signs of a clot.
So what exactly is a blood clot? Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s basically when your blood goes from a liquid to a solid state,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Lorenzo Munoz, M.D., neurosurgeon at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Think of your veins as a series of pipes, and you can see how an obstruction would cause major damage to your circulatory system. Though ClintonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s blood clot was located in her head, they can also crop up in the veins in your legs, lungs, and neck.
Clots are typically treated with anticoagulants (blood thinners), which help to break them up and keep them from getting bigger, says Munoz. But if theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re left untreated they can cause serious complications. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Sometimes they form and go away,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Munoz. Ã¢â‚¬Å“But if you have a clot in your leg that becomes dislodged, it can cause a pulmonary embolism, which can keep you from breathing and can kill you. And if a clot travels to your brain, you can have a stroke.Ã¢â‚¬Â
While itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not always possible to prevent a clot, taking these precautions can help keep you safe:
Know the risk factors There isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t one main cause of blood clots, but doctors have pinpointed a few factors that may bring them on. Ã¢â‚¬Å“If you have a penetrating injury to your skull that interrupts the flow of blood, that can be a precipitating factor,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Munoz. Other risks include dehydration, steroid use, hypervitaminosis (an excess of vitamins), and birth control use in women over 35 and women who smoke. In fact, just step away from the cigarettes completely. Ã¢â‚¬Å“If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re on birth control and smoking, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re asking for trouble,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Munoz.
Stay hydrated Dehydration is a huge cause of blood clots, since it messes with your natural blood flow. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The more hydrated you are, the better your circulatory system is working,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Munoz. Before you hop on a plane, make sure to stock your bag with a water bottleÃ¢â‚¬”flying tends to suck the fluids right out of you.
Keep moving Sit at a desk all day? Roll your ankles while youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re seated, and take a few short breaks to get up and walk around, says Munoz. Any light movement will get your blood flowing, which can reduce your risk of blood clots.
Look for the warning signs A blood clot in your leg can be accompanied by calf pain, swelling, redness, or even lumpiness in the veins, says Munoz. A clot near your brain, like ClintonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s, can be associated with a bad headache, seizures, vision problems, numbness, or weakness. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Any time you have an unexplained, atypical headache that doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t go away with a pain reliever, you should get it checked out,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Munoz. And if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve had a clot in the past, be sure to schedule regular appointments with your doctor to avoid another one.
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