Can long-distance travel be deadly?

Published: July 31, 2014 | By Better Health Publishing

As the summer season hits full swing, many people are planning their long-awaited vacations. If you are escaping to a far-away place, however, it’s important to keep in mind the risks involved with long-distance travel. In particular, we need to take extra care with our circulation, which during the summer can often be hindered by hot weather, swelling and inflammation. And in the case of travel wherein you’re sitting for long periods, this combination can be quite dangerous.

Researchers found that long-distance travel can raise your risk of a deadly venous thromboembolism (VTE) as much as threefold. In addition, risk increases relative to the duration of your trip — by a whopping 26 percent for every two hours of air travel and by 18 percent for every two hours of any other kind of travel — even if you are otherwise healthy.

What is VTE and why is it so risky?

VTE comprises deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism. DVT is marked by abnormal clot formation(s) in the deepest veins in your body, including those in your legs or pelvis. A pulmonary embolism occurs when a clot becomes dislodged and travels to your lungs, blocking the pulmonary artery and resulting in difficulty breathing, rapid heart rate and, sometimes, sudden death.

Protect yourself

Long-distance travelers are at higher risk for these serious events, so it’s critical to take every measure to protect yourself. One thing that can help if you are traveling far is to stay well hydrated. Also, make sure you take the time to move around and stretch your legs whenever you get the chance; both of these simple precautions can help to reduce your risk of VTE. Also, remember to breathe deeply and avoid excessive alcohol intake.

High-quality botanical and nutritional supplements can also help, particularly if your clotting risk is higher than normal due to cancer, stroke, birth control, surgery or other risk factors. In my clinical practice, I recommend a Tibetan herbal formula that has been clinically studied for decades; published studies show it significantly reduces abnormal clotting factors and boosts circulation in patients with peripheral artery disease. Other helpful nutraceutical ingredients include the enzyme nattokinase from natto, a fermented soy product and traditional food from Japan. Hawthorn berry omega-3 fats are also helpful for promoting circulation and cardiovascular health.

Symptoms of VTE

Perhaps the most important precaution you can take is familiarizing yourself with the symptoms of VTE. This knowledge can save your life. Pain, swelling, redness and warmth in your legs are red flags that a blood clot may have formed — and sudden shortness of breath, chest pain and a bloody cough are all warning signs that it may have traveled to your lungs.

Other risks

Flying may pose other risks as well. Exposure to cosmic radiation from flying long distances at high altitudes can increase risks of cancer and other conditions related to increased oxidative stress, inflammation, and cellular and DNA damage. People who fly frequently can benefit from measures such as maintaining an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich diet, as well as taking supplements that help to block the effects of radiation, reduce inflammation and detoxify the body. Modified Citrus Pectin is a well-researched nutraceutical supplement that has been shown in preclinical and clinical studies to help remove heavy metals and radioactive particles from the body, reduce inflammation, protect cellular and cardiovascular health, and support immunity.

This last point is also important: During travel to unfamiliar places, especially on crowded means of transportation, immunity and digestive health can be at higher risk for harmful invaders. Medicinal mushrooms and digestive-support formulas, including high-quality probiotics and enzymes, can also help protect and maintain the health of our essential defense systems.

If you suspect VTE during or after your next long trip, be sure to seek medical attention immediately. Quick intervention and proper prevention can help ensure that you enjoy many more trips — and all of the long-distance travel they might require — for years to come. Safe and happy travels!

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