I am 81 years old and my wife is 77. I booked a 16-day cruise from Beijing to Bangkok, Thailand. Because of the long flight from New York, one of our friends talked to my wife, saying that it is a long trip, you are too old, you could get blood clots, etc., and made me cancel this trip. I want to know if I can travel for 14 hours straight. I flew to Australia and many times to Greece almost every other year, and twice a year we fly to Europe. Please give some advice.
–Paskalis, Hicksville, N.Y.
If you are worried at all about your health, your first move is, of course, to check in with a physician before you leave. A physician will be able to offer you specific, personalized advice about whether you’re at risk of developing blood clots and deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
In short, blood clots can be triggered by long periods of inactivity. In fact, they used to be referred to as "economy class syndrome," because while sitting on long flights, blood can pool in your legs. The risk of DVT can also be elevated by dehydration and changes in atmospheric pressure.
There are several things you can do to help prevent DVT. Compression stockings have been shown fairly effective in increasing leg circulation. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, and avoid alcohol and caffeine at least two hours before and after you fly.
To keep the blood from pooling in your legs, simply take walks around the cabin, or at least stand up and stretch your legs for a few minutes each hour. There are several exercises you can do in your seat, too, such as flexing and stretching your calves, circling your ankles and lifting your knees toward your chest.
Again, check with your physician and develop a thorough DVT-prevention program that incorporates the above tips, and with his or her blessing, you'll have a great trip.