By Dr. Helen Okoye
Thrombosis, more commonly known as blood clotting, is a dangerous and life-threatening condition. Globally, one in four people die from conditions caused by thrombosis, making it a leading cause of death worldwide.
Concerningly, with technological advances and shifting work patterns, many of us lead increasingly sedentary lifestyles, increasing our risk of thrombosis. Do you sit at a desk for work or enjoy sitting watching TV in the evening? You could be at high risk.
This is because when we sit for long periods of time, it enables pooling of blood in the veins, leading to clot formation, known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). These clots can then break off and travel to other parts of the body, causing harmful effects. For example, if a clot travels to the lungs it leads to a potentially deadly condition called pulmonary embolism (PE).
In light of this risk, World Thrombosis Day’s (WTD) theme this year is “Move Against Thrombosis”. WTD aims to raise awareness about the risks of thrombosis and encourage and empower people to take preventative action against it.
Signs you’re not moving enough
So how can you know if you are not moving enough and subsequently are at risk of thrombosis?
Globally,one in four adults do not meet recommended levels of physical activity. The goal of 10,000 steps is widely circulated, buteven taking 7,000 steps a day can have a statistically significant positive impact on health, says Dr. Helen Okoye, a leading thrombosis specialist who is part of the WTD campaign steering committee. If you’re moving less than this, it is important to walk more! Steps can be tracked and monitored on most smartphones and watches.
But crucially, even when living a generally active life, time spent sedentary poses a risk to health. WHO states that we should limit the amount of time spent being sedentary. Replacing sedentary time with physical activity of any intensity (including light intensity) provides health benefits.
To monitor this, sitting down for too long has physical effects on the body that can also be used as tell-tale signals to move more. If you spend long periods of time sitting in front of a screen, you may notice some of the following symptoms:
● Difficulty sleeping
● Low energy
● Poor posture
● Weight gain
● Lack of focus
● Tight hips and hamstrings
● Stiff neck and shoulders
● Back pain
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it is vital to take action to increase your movement. According to Dr. Okoye, we all need to make a conscious effort to build movement into our everyday lives. “Make it a daily habit to move more,” says Dr. Okoye. “The less you keep your body in a static position throughout the day, the better your chances for living a healthy life.”
Reducing your risk of thrombosisdoes not require a drastic life overhaul; a few simple changes can increase your chances of a healthy life.
Five ways to move more
Here are five easy ways to break up your time sitting still. Get your friends involved and try to make one or all these a regular habit in your day-to-day life.
1. Take a break, says Dr. Okoye. “Schedule a break in your day. Whether that’s a few minutes outside, a chat with a colleague, or a walk to get a snack or coffee, taking the time to get up and move will reduce your risk of thrombosis. It’s all the little movements we do in the day that matter. The trick is to build movement into every part of your life,” she advises.
2. Walk more. To reach that 7,000 steps goal, there are many ways to implement subtle changes and increase the amount you walk. These include switching to walking meetings and phone calls, taking the stairs, parking a block away from a shop you are going to, and scheduling a 15 – 30 minute walk every day.
3. Stretch more. Why not multi-task to make good use of standing breaks or time watching TV? Exercising or stretching, even for a short time, is a simple healthy habit to introduce. There are brief five-minute yoga or stretching videos on YouTube that can be an effective way to release stress and muscle tension from your body. Or you could set yourself a challenge; for example, to do five lunges every hour.
4. Dance it out. Get some colleagues or friends together to shake it out and have a dance break! Maybe a silly one, but definitely a good way to have a laugh, boost positive energy and reduce risk of thrombosis.
5. Stand more. Take a five-minute standing break for every hour that you sit down, advises Dr Okoye. “During your work week, try to stay in motion whenever possible. Stand up while you’re talking on the phone or if a colleague stops at your desk for a chat, and go for a walk during lunchtime,” she concludes.
By making these changes a daily habit, not only will you reduce your chances of thrombosis, but it can also have a positive impact on your mental and physical health. Movement releases endorphins, which boost energy levels, and serotonin, which uplifts mood.
Dr. Helen Okoye is a Haematologist and currently works as an Attending Physician and Thrombosis Specialist. She focuses on thrombosis and haemostasis with special interest in women’s health. She currently runs an M.Sc./Ph.D. program in Human Reproduction and Women’s Health.
DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of the Corporation.