Rapper Heavy D died from it, tennis extraordinaire Serena Williams suffered from it in January this year, and NASCAR driver Brian Vickers had it as well.
The National Institutes of Health states,“30 percent of those with untreated pulmonary embolism, will die.”
Pulmonary embolism is no laughing matter and as a PE patient (or concerned person) you want to know the risk factors and if there are prevention measures, but first, knowing what pulmonary embolism is the key to understanding the risks.
According to the Mayoclinic.org, “Pulmonary embolism is the blockage of the pulmonary arteries in your lungs.”
The clot will typically begin in the leg(and sometimes pelvic area). The clot will then “break off and travel through the heart and into the lung arteries.“
Before delving into the risk factors, there are warning signs of pulmonary embolism. They are:
- Shortness of breath especially due to exertion.
- A pain in the chest that when you inhale deeply, causes sharp pains(pleurisy).
- Coughs that produce bloody sputum.
PE can be something else entirely; it is always a good idea to seek medical help right away. For instance, a shortness of breath and chest pains can be caused by pneumonia or congestive heart failure. PE patients and sufferers may experience a combination of chest pains, coughs and dizziness so again, seek medical attention right away.
Now that you know the symptoms and what pulmonary embolism is, the next big question is: Are you at risk?
Your lifestyle will be the catalyst for your demise. Risk factors for pulmonary embolism include:
- Being overweight
- High blood pressure
- Lack of mobility
- Eating too much red meat
- Family medical history
The most surprising risk factor of all is one many people take: long trips. In the friendly skies. In 2001, researchers looked into the connection between pulmonary embolism and long flights. What they found was startling. “For every million people traveling 10,000 kilometers, there were 4.8 cases of PE.”
Prevention of pulmonary embolism is as old as time. Experts at suggest the basics: exercise, eat healthy foods, no smoking, good oral hygiene and plenty of rest.
Since DVT or deep vein thrombosis begin in the legs, there are leg clot prevention strategies you can do right now. Try elevating your legs at night, raise your bed by 4-6 inches or have some pillows stacked under your feet.
Another remedy is movement after surgery. Many nurses will try to get you to walk around after surgery to prevent clotting which then leads to pulmonary embolism.
Your life does not have to end with pulmonary embolism. If you watch for the signs, stay healthy and even more importantly seek a doctor regularly, you can catch PE before it ends your life. Something so small as a clot traveling through to the lungs can cause so much damage, but you don’t have to suffer from it. Educate yourself on the dangers of it and pay attention to your body. It is the best warning system.