(BPT) - NASCAR driver Brian Vickers has earned many accolades throughout his career, including becoming the youngest champion of any of NASCAR’s three top-tier series at age 20. However, one milestone in his life that he was not expecting to encounter was not one, but two dangerous blood clots by age 30.
When someone starts bleeding because of an injury, a blood clot forms to stop the bleeding - and that’s a good thing1. But some blood clots are abnormal and can lead to serious medical conditions, like deep vein thrombosis – or DVT – when a blood clot forms in a deep vein in the body, often the leg or thigh, or pulmonary embolism – or PE – when the blood clot travels to the lung and cuts off blood from flowing from the heart2.
The mortality from DVT/PE is greater than deaths from motor vehicle accidents, breast cancer and HIV combined3.
In 2010, when Vickers was just 27, he experienced a blood clot in his leg that traveling to his lungs, seriously restricting his blood flow and requiring him to have emergency heart surgery. At first, he wasn’t sure why he was experiencing the symptoms and was confused.
“For a couple of weeks, I just didn’t feel like myself. I was tired, and often out of breath. I was actually riding my bike around New York City with my manager, and that’s when I remember thinking that something wasn’t right,” recalls Vickers. “My manager’s a fit guy, but I’m a professional athlete, and I just couldn’t keep up with him.”
Vickers’ doctor prescribed a medication that would thin out his blood to prevent another blood clot, called warfarin. While Vickers was taking warfarin, like all patients on this medication, he had go for blood work every few weeks to make sure the medication was working and to see if any changes were needed to the dose. He also had to be mindful of the foods he ate since certain foods, like leafy greens, can actually stop the medication from working4. When he finished his medication, he jumped back into the racecar, but in 2013 he encountered another all-too-familiar road block – a second blood clot.
“A crash-related injury had me wearing an immobilizing boot for several weeks, and my doctor thinks that boot is what caused the clot,” Vickers said. “At first I thought maybe I just bruised my calf or something wearing the boot but that was a bit optimistic. It didn’t go away so I went to get an ultrasound. That’s how we found the second blood clot.”
Once someone has suffered from a DVT or PE, they are at a higher risk of having another one. In fact, a risk of a recurrent event is highest in the first six to twelve months after experiencing an event5. This time around, Vickers’ doctor prescribed a blood thinner that didn’t require regular blood monitoring or have any known dietary restrictions6.
“My doctor and I had an important conversation about the risks I needed to consider related to my treatment options,” Vickers said. “We talked a lot about my medical history, how I could bruise more easily when taking a blood thinner, the risk of bleeding and the importance of taking the medicine compliantly. We also talked about how my blood thinner might interact with other treatments I’m taking and the importance of talking to him about taking the medication before any medical or dental procedures I had planned. I urge everyone to talk to their doctors about the benefits and risks of treatment options to understand what makes the most sense for them."
Vickers used a handy free App, Care4Today, that reminded him to take his medication every day. “The App is really cool. It even sends an alert to my wife so she knows that I took my medicine,” said Vickers. He’s also teamed up with the app’s developer, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, to promote awareness of DVT and PE and inform others about the potential risks and warning signs.
”This oral medication is an important treatment option for patients because it does not require blood monitoring as frequently and it does not impose any dietary changes,” said Jack Ansell, MD, MACP, Professor of Medicine at New York University School of Medicine6. “With this treatment, patients can continue to live their lives without the disruption of having to go to the doctor to have their blood checked. There are risks associated with all treatments, so it’s important for all patients to speak with their doctor.”
Ansell also notes that there are several steps you can take to decrease your risk of developing a DVT-PE: 2
- If you’re sitting for an extended period of time, such as a long car or plane ride, make sure to get up and stretch your legs to keep the blood flowing
- See your doctor for regular checkups
- Don’t smoke and keep a healthy weight
- Wear compression stockings as directed by your doctor
- Take all medicines that your doctor prescribes to prevent or treat blood clots
- Follow up with your doctor for tests and treatment
Visit http://www.stoptheclot.org/ for more information, and ask your doctor about new treatment options that can treat DVT and PE and reduce the risk of recurrence without the need for regular blood monitoring or dietary restrictions.
- American Society of Hematology. Blood Clots. http://www.hematology.org/Patients/Blood-Disorders/Blood-Clots/5233.aspx. Accessed December 11, 2013.
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (2011, October 28). What is Deep Vein Thrombosis? Retrieved from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/dvt/. Accessed October 28, 2013.
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (2011, December). NHLBI Stats Workshop: Pulmonary Embolism Disease and CTEPH Research. Retrieved from http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/meetings/workshops/embolic.htm. Accessed October 28, 2013.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine-Medline Plus. (2013, April 15). Warfarin. Retrieved from National Library of Medicine website http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a682277.html#side-effects. Accessed November 8, 2013.
- Roger VL, Go AS, Lloyd-Jones DM, Benjamin EJ, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics--2012 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation 125(1).e2-e220.
- Patel MR, Mahaffey KW, Garg J, et al. Rivaroxaban versus warfarin in nonvalvular atrial fibrillation. N Engl J Med. 2011;365(10):883-991.