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Is high blood pressure the only silent killer? What is another silent killer?

Is high blood pressure the only silent killer?

Image of blood clot in vein.
Wikimedia commons

Most of us are aware that high blood pressure is known as the silent killer. This is because it gives no warning of its detrimental effects. A person with high blood pressure doesn’t necessarily have to feel that something is wrong. They can go on and live their lives every day without feeling anything unusual. This also accounts for why people who have high blood pressure stop taking their medicine. After all, they feel “just fine” so why should they take their medications, right? This is why many people will suffer strokes and heart attacks suddenly; sometimes resulting in their death.

What is another silent killer?

There are other medical conditions which are silent killers. Today I am going to talk about a silent killer known as deep vein thrombosis. Deep vein thrombosis, commonly known as DVT, is a blood clot that forms inside the veins; usually within the deep veins of the legs. If the clot manages to break away, it can travel to the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism or it could travel to the heart and cause a myocardial infarction (heart attack). In either case, the movement of a clot can result in sudden death.

What causes a DVT?

  • Damaged blood vessels-from bone or muscle damage; one that is narrowed has a decrease in circulation could also result in a clot formation with the wall of a vein.
  • Inactivity/immobility-for a long period of time (90 min or more) causes a decrease in normal blood flow. For example, persons in the hospital from an illness or operation and persons who are traveling for long journeys. In either case the inactivity impends the proper circulation throughout the body.
  • No apparent cause-a DVT can be caused for no known reason.

What are some predisposing risks to one developing a DVT?

  • Medical/genetic conditions-could predispose an individual to a DVT.
  • Pregnancy-increases stasis of blood in the veins; decreasing circulation.
  • Oral contraceptives and hormonal replacement-increases the risk of developing a DVT.
  • Chemotherapy-Cancer drugs damage the blood vessels, sometimes narrowing them.
  • Infectious diseases-such as hepatitis.
  • Inflammatory diseases-such as rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Thrombophilia-a blood condition that causes your blood to clot easily.
  • Hughes Syndrome-blood becomes sticky for no known reason.
  • Obesity/Overweight-increases the pressure to the veins of the lower extremities;
  • Smoker-increases peripheral resistance to the arterioles; narrowing vessels
  • 60 years of age or older-with decreased activity from medical conditions, etc.
  • Varicose veins-damaged vessels are weakened; altering adequate blood circulation

How many people die from a DVT?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths from a DVT which result in pulmonary embolism and/or myocardial infarction (heart attacks), kills more than 100,000 people every year in the United States.


Can a DVT be prevented?

Sometimes a DVT may be prevented by avoiding inactivity for more than 60 min if possible. A good family history is necessary so your healthcare provider can detect any predisposing factors, etc. The main thing to remember with a DVT is that since it can silently travel to other parts of your body (heart and lungs), it is thereby important to recognize the early signs. There are blood tests that can be performed to indicate that an individual’s blood is clotting more frequently than usual. And if these tests are positive than there are Doppler Ultrasound studies that can then be performed to locate just where the DVT is located. Then the necessary follow-up treatment can be initiated promptly.

If you or someone you know may have signs and symptoms of a DVT it is imperative that a healthcare provider is contacted immediately and follow up with the appropriate treatment plan. Remember, the early signs and symptoms of a DVT are what one can recognize. The fact that this clot can reservedly travel to the heart and/or lungs without one feeling what is actually going on is why a DVT is also known as one of the silent killers.

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