Being on a seven hour flight by yourself, sans kids, sans husband, sans a neighbor in the seat next to you fighting for the arm rest…gives you a lot of time to think and write.
I’ve been hearing too many stories lately about tightness and pain caused by traveling, and more importantly the cause of blood clots when on long flights (greater than 3 hours). The statistics vary for blood clots, recent data, rank it 3rd for leading cause of death right after cancer.
Yes, they are deadly and dangerous. A recent scare in my own family has caused me to bring this information to light, and speak on its SEVERITY!
Blood clots form when you are immobile for long periods of time, like on an airplane. From the immobility the deep veins have slowed return of fluid back up towards the heart, and the blood pools in a certain area of the body, usually the legs and in the calf area.
Everyone is at risk for blood clots. The risk is higher for those:
- Taking Birth Control
- Pregnant and upto 6 weeks post-partum
- Older than 40 years of age
- Had surgery within 3 months
- Have Varicose Veins
Symptoms of a blood clot include:
- Swelling of arms or legs
- Skin feels warm to the touch
- Pain and unexplained tenderness in calf
If you have pain, do not repeatedly squeeze the calf because you can aggravate the clot. Some blood clots can dissolve on their own, however, and more commonly, they break apart and travel through the blood stream and lodge into your heart or lungs blocking blood flow and oxygen from vital organs in your body, causing death.
The reason I feel so strongly about the subject is because there are very simple steps to take in the prevention of it! Here are 8 things you can do to keep your blood flowing, stay flexible and alive while flying.
Keep your eyes closed look straight into the inside of your eyelid (your third eye). Take deep slow breaths, pushing your belly out as you inhale and belly comes in as you exhale. Exhale completely releasing every last bit of breath, before your take your next inhale.
I am always a big proponent of breathing, in every situation, in every place. A few breaths per minute keeps the stress away. A quick side story: I was on a flight to London and we pulled away from the gate only to 5 minutes later, an announcement that something was wrong with the AC and we had to go to another gate and have maintenance crew check it out. This delayed our already late flight by about 1 ½ hours.
The Gods were definitely on my side because I had just done a 20 minute meditation. I felt calm as a feather and there was everyone around me, agitated, angry and even yelling at their loved ones over the phone, as if it was their fault. I count my blessings and find peace in the chaos, all because I believe in the breath!
The humidity level in the airplane is much lower than normal ranges. This dry environment can cause your body to become dehydrated very easily. Drink lots of water to help replenish your systems. Alcohol, coffees and teas actually have a dehydrating effect, and can cause increased fatigue.
Staying hydrated also helps combat the higher chances of contracting a virus on the plane. Humidity keeps your air passages moist and the lining can protect the germs entering your body. If the airway becomes dry the mucous doesn’t work properly and can allow germs into the body.
A good target is drinking one 8oz glass of fluid for every hour on a flight. (3 hours of a flight means 3 cups of water)
Sometimes on short flights, it can be hard to get up and walk. There are no excuses, when it come to your health and staying alive. Get up from your seat and walk up and down the aisle. Especially for long flights greater than 2 hours.
Some people feel shy or embarrassed about walking up and down the aisle on the plane. Seeing all those faces staring back at you as you pass by for a 3rd time, feeling like you’ve lost your seat. Well feeling that way is much better than the pain and feeling of having a deadly blood clot. So keep moving.
4. ANKLE PUMPS
Ankle pumps decrease swelling in the extremities by increasing venous return or pushing blood back up towards the heart to recirculate.
Ankle pump exercises, inadvertently strengthen your pelvic floor. Don’t believe me? Flex your feet up, bringing your toes up toward your body. Do you feel something happening at your pelvic floor (yes men feel this too)? And who doesn’t want better bladder control on a plane!
- Straighten out your legs under the seat in front of you.
- Lift the legs about 6-12 inches off the floor, depending on how much room you have.
- Begin to flex your feet up towards you and then point them away.
- Repeat about 20-50 times. Repeat every 30-45 minutes. You can’t do enough.
5. ANKLE CIRCLES.
These help keep your ankles from swelling, stiffening and tightening. Keeping the mobility of your ankle joints so those long walks to the baggage claim isn’t painful.
- Straighten out your legs under the seat in front of you.
- Lift your legs about 6-12 inches off the floor.
- Start by flexing your feet up towards your and then make circles pointing your feet in all directions.
- Repeat 20-50 times.
- Reverse directions.
- Repeat 20-50 times. Repeat every 30-45 minutes
6. SPINAL FLEXES
Sitting on a plane or anywhere can really close off your heart center and cause poor posture and circulation. Spinal Flexes help decrease stiffness, and keep your spine flexible and strong to lift those bags, so get to it.
- Sitting straight with your chin tucked slightly, shoulders back and down and spine straight.
- Begin by arching your back. Opening up your chest area and pulling your shoulders back. Pushing your hip bones forward.
- Now go in the opposite direction curling your spine, bringing your shoulders forward and bringing your chin to your chest.
- Inhale as you arch. Exhale as you round.
- Repeat 20-50 times. Repeat every hour.
7. Neck Rolls
Our necks are placed in funking positions from sleeping, looking at the screen or twisting and turning to talk to your neighbor. Neck Rolls help keep your neck from stiffening and causing headaches.
- Sitting with your spine straight and shoulders back and down.
- Bring your chin to your chest, inhale.
- Exhale as you take your right ear to the right shoulder.
- Then inhale as you take your head back and look up toward ceiling.
- Exhale as you take your left ear to the shoulder.
- Inhale as your return with your chin to your chest.
- Repeat about 10-20 times.
- Reverse directions and repeat another 10-20 times. Do every hour.
If you can’t do neck rolls due to pain or limitation. Break up the exercise into two parts:
Rotate neck side to side, repeating 20 times.
Then bring chin to chest and chin to sky, repeating 20 times.
8. WRIST PUMPS.
These help keep the blood flowing in your upper extremities. These are similar to ankle pumps, but for your wrists.
- Sitting with your spine straight.
- Stretch your arms straight in front of you, so they are at heart level.
- Extend your wrists, pointing your fingers up toward the ceiling.
- Then point your fingers down toward the ground, flexing your wrists.
- Repeat 20 times in each direction. Do every hour.
Staying alive is the most important thing to living. Practice Prevention!