Airline Seats that Kill
Exercises to Fight Economy Class Syndrome
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Clotting blood is usually a good thing. It stops us from bleeding to death after a cut. But in the case of DVT, the clot forms where it's not needed. Most of the time clots dissolve harmlessly without requiring treatment. They become dangerous when they start to block the flow of blood, or worse break loose and travel to the lungs where it blocks blood flow to the heart. A clot that stops blood to your heart is referred to as a pulmonary embolism and can be fatal.
The risks are greatest for people over the age of 40, if you're on hormonal medications or had recent surgery, people with cancer, cardiovascular disease or blood clotting disorders. Being overweight or pregnant also increases the risk factor. The longer you stay immobile in your seat, the greater the risk.
Prevention is the key.
Skip the alcohol and drink plenty of water. Sleeping on a plane slightly increases the risk because when you sleep you're moving less and your heart rate drops. Alcohol can make you tired, so it's best to avoid it.
Get rid of tight-fitting clothes so you don't constrict blood vessels. However, if you're in a higher risk group, you might consider compression stockings. Those are stockings that put pressure on the legs and help increase blood circulation.
Compression stockings have not been proven to reduce DVT in airline passengers, but they do reduce the swelling caused by edema. Be warned though, the only ones tested were obtained by prescription, not over the counter brands.
Don't cross your legs in flight, it restricts the flow of blood.
You can reduce your risk two-fold by choosing an aisle over a window seat. Presumably, people on the aisle get up more often, increasing circulation. If you're stuck beside a window, take a bathroom break in the middle of the flight. Don't feel bad about it. By forcing the other two seats to stand up, you may be helping them as well.
If you can afford it, choose business or first class with footrests in the seats. Elevating your feet on a footrest is believed to aid in circulation.
If you can't get out of your seat, try these exercises.
Foot or Ankle Circles are done by lifting your ankle off the ground and making complete circles with your foot, first to the left and then to the right. Do 10 reps to the left on each foot, then 10 reps to the right.
The Foot Press or Toe Point involves moving your feet up and down like you're pumping a gas pedal. When you flex your foot up, hold it for 3-5 seconds. Then flex your foot all the way down and hold it again for 3-5 seconds. Do two sets of five reps on each foot.
Knee Raises are done by lifting the knees up towards your chest, pause and then slowly return your feet back to the floor. You can do this with one or both legs at the same time, whichever you feel more comfortable with.
Core Activation is a function of sitting up straight, keeping your eyes facing forward and exhaling, pulling your belly button in towards your spine. Hold for about three seconds and release as you inhale. Repeat 3-5 times.
Relax your Shoulders next by raising both arms straight above your head. Clasp your hands together then flip your hands up, pointing your palms toward the ceiling. Use your arms to push your palms to the ceiling. Don't let your shoulders rise up. While you're pushing toward the ceiling, you should also push your shoulders away from your ears. Breathe in deep and then slowly exhale 3-5 times.
If you are in one of the higher risk groups or have previously experienced DVT, it's important to see a doctor before you get on that plane. In very high-risk cases you might get a prescription for an injection of a blood thinner like heparin.
Finally, don't let embarrassment kill you. If you start experiencing symptoms such as chest pain, leg pain, swelling in the leg or shortness or breath, tell your flight attendant immediately. If you have a pulmonary embolism and it goes untreated, your risk of death is about 25%. Don't become a statistic.
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