Health and Wellness

Why Are African Americans At A Higher Risk Of Contracting Deep Vein Thrombosis?


Contribution by Sally Writes

As many as 100,000 deaths occur in the U.S. every year because of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) –  a condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein, usually in the leg area. DVT can be dangerous and even fatal. The Office of Minority Health at the Department of Health and Human Services has warned that African-Americans are at a much higher risk for this condition than people of other ethnic backgrounds. The risk is particularly high following serious illness, surgery or other types of trauma. If you are worried about DVT, what signs should you watch out for, and how can you reduce your risk factors?

Reducing Your Likelihood Of Developing DVT

The first steps for African Americans wishing to lower their chances of developing DVT is to look at additional factors that can further raise their risk. These include being overweight, smoking, being on contraception or Hormone Replacement Therapy, having cancer or heart failure, and having varicose veins. Situational risks can also exist. These include taking a long plane or car ride (sitting in one position for a long time) and leading a sedentary lifestyle. For all these reasons, following a healthy diet and taking daily exercise are important. Even if you do have a desk job, you can battle DVT by getting up every hour to stretch, run up and down steps, or simply take a short brisk walk. Remember that doing half an hour of exercise as recommended by doctors may not be enough if you sit down for several hours straight.

What Symptoms Should You Watch Out for?

Symptoms of DVT are varied and can include leg pain, swelling, feverish skin, red or patchy skin, and coughing up bloody mucus. DVT symptoms should be considered a medical emergency. The overall prevalence of DVT is up to 60% higher in black men and women (this is true regardless of gender) and black people also have a higher rate of pulmonary embolism and pregnancy-associated DVT than other groups.

Why Do More Black People Have DVT?

Despite various studies into the subject, scientists are still unable to fully define potential reasons for interracial differences in DVT risks between black Americans and other groups. One postulation is that the inheritance of hemoglobin S (a particular kind of protein in blood cells that is found in sickle cell disease) may increase the risk of thrombosis. As reported in a case study by T Buckner et al, sickle cell trait is found in up to 8% of black Americans, and people with sickle cell disease have an “overactive coagulation system.” More black Americans also have specific conditions that may be related to an elevated DVT risk. These conditions include hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and chronic kidney disease. Finally, black Americans have high levels of two important clotting proteins that can lead to increased coagulation.

Black Americans (both men and women) have a higher risk of DVT than other members of the American population. Risk factors for this condition are known – they include hypertension and sedentarism, for instance. To reduce your risk of developing DVT, stay at a healthy weight, consume a healthy Mediterranean-style diet, and keep active as recommended by your doctor.​


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