No doubt you’ve heard about developing deep vein thrombosis or DVT in your legs during a long flight. DVT can be a life-threatening blood clot that travels through your bloodstream to your lungs causing a pulmonary embolism. A pulmonary embolism can block blood flow and be fatal. Signs of potential DVT include swelling of the ankles and/or legs and can be very uncomfortable.
Good news, taking a single over-the-counter supplement can go a long way to preventing swelling and reducing leg pain. The supplement is Pycnogenol. Pycnogenol is an herbal supplement and a registered trademark for an extract from the bark of the French maritime pine. Fred Pescatore, MD was interviewed by Bottom Line Personal and shared the results of a study that compared the antioxidant Pycnogenol to compression stockings (which aid with circulation) and a control group that did nothing special on a flight of over 8 hours and while sitting in economy.
Test results: Pycnogenol performed better than the stockings and the control group according to this study. Pycnogenol seems to make sense as a blood-clot preventive on long trips—even long car rides. The test result showed that the pycnogenol group had the least leg/ankle swelling of the three groups and the least amount of pain. There were two incidents of thrombosis in the control group but none in the Pycnogenol or stocking groups.
Recommended preventative measures for DVT:
Pycnogenol: Dr. Pescatore recommends taking 100 milligrams of Pycnogenol twice a day for one week before a long flight, on the day of the flight and for one week afterward. While Pycnogenol generally is considered safe with few side effects, as with any supplement, consult your physician to make sure that it’s right for you. For more information read the Bottom Line Article.
Compression stocking: If you can’t take pycnogenol or don’t wish to, consider wearing compression stockings designed for air travel on your next long flight. Stocking designed for women and compression stockings designed for men gently squeeze your legs to move blood up your legs. This helps prevent leg swelling and, to a lesser extent, blood clots. If you have varicose veins, spider veins, or have just had surgery, your health care provider may prescribe compression stockings. Compression stockings also help with aching and heavy feelings in the legs, swelling, preventing blood clots.