Are You a Desk Potato? Preventing Deep Vein Thrombosis

Businessman looking at a computer monitor

If you’re chained to your desk at work with few breaks, and lunch is more “al desko” than “al fresco,” you are a Desk Potato.

Lack of exercise can create serious health risks, from arthritis and back issues to diabetes and obesity. Being sedentary for periods of four hours or more is not only inadvisable, it can also be deadly. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a serious but preventable condition that can develop as a result of sitting for extended periods in confined spaces like work stations, planes and trains.

DVT can occur when a blood clot forms, usually in a deep, below-the-surface, invisible vein of the arm, lower leg, thigh, or pelvis. The clot breaks off and travels through the blood stream on its way to the lungs, stopping the blood flow before it gets there. This blood clot in the lung (a pulmonary embolism or PE) can prove fatal: 60,000 to 100,000 out of the 300,000 to 600,000 affected annually in the U.S. will die from this “silent killer” that has few or no warning signs. For 25% of those affected, sudden death is the first symptom. About 30% of those with DVT will suffer a recurrence.

Call your doctor if you notice skin redness, pain, limb swelling, or tenderness. If you experience anxiety, difficulty breathing, a fast or irregular heartbeat, increasingly severe chest pain, heavy coughing accompanied by blood, or fainting, call 911.

Risk Factors and Prevention

Age, heredity, obesity, and high estrogen levels can play a role in developing DVT. So, too, can bone breaks; muscle tears; surgery; plus bowel, heart or lung disease; and cancer. Ask your doctor if you’re at risk. Though sometimes treatable with blood thinners or compression stockings, help to minimize the risk of DVT when sitting by:

  • Avoiding crossing your legs.
  • Repeatedly raising and flexing your legs up off the floor.
  • Walking for 10 minutes every two or three hours, or longer during lunchtime.
  • Wearing loose-fitting clothing.

Stay in motion and you’ll not only increase energy, flexibility and productivity, you might just ward off a potentially life-threatening DVT.


By Lisa Miceli Feliciano

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