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Can Fit Women Suffer From Blood Clots?


You would think that women who are fit would be the least likely to suffer from blood clots, but that’s not the case.

In 2103, triathlete Jenny Fletcher was in New York and found it difficult to cross the finish line during a half-marathon. She experienced nausea and had to sit down after the race which was unheard of for her. When she returned to her hotel that day she slept for the entire day.

It only got worse for Jenny when she returned to her home in Los Angeles. She experienced severe pain in her rib cage and when she returned to cycling she found it hard to breath and was always behind with her training partners.

It wasn’t until she coughed up blood one morning that she decided it was time to see a doctor.  After a CT scan she was shocked to find out that she had multiple blood clots throughout her lungs. There was so many that they were blocking her pulmonary artery. She was told had she waited one more day she may not be alive. She was put on heavy medication to break up the clots and then returned home with blood thinners. She had to stop racing for up to 6 months.

How Did This Happen?

The big question is, how did this happen to someone in peak health? You certainly are at a higher risk of getting a blood clot if you smoke or are in bad health or even have had surgery but the truth is anyone can get a blood clot. In fact about a quarter of a million women suffer from clots every year.

Clots are more likely to develop in people who are very inactive but even fit women get it. Women under the age of 45 are more likely to get blood clots than men of the same age. The cause of that is hormonal birth control which actually increases your risk of blood clots.

In Jenny’s case it was likely due to a hormonal vaginal ring she used. Pregnant and postpartum women are also at risk due to the increase in estrogen.

Surgery can also increase the risk of blood clots. In fact you can be 22 times more likely to develop a blood clot if you have had knee, hip or abdominal surgery. The FITNESS web editor Samantha Shelton was diagnosed with having seven blood clots in her leg during her recovery of knee surgery.

How To Protect Yourself

It’s not about ditching birth control or avoiding surgery. There are many things you can do to prevent blood clots.

  • Stay Active. Never sit still for long.
  • Choose the aisle seat on an airplane. You are more likely to get up and walk.
  • Speak up about surgery. Ask your doctor about precautions to protect you from blood clots.
  • Keep an eye on your legs during pregnancy. If you experience any pain let your doctor know.