African Americans have a significantly higher risk of developing potentially deadly DVT and PE compared with other ethnic populations in the U.S., according to data presented by Dr. Graham.
"One person dies every five to six minutes from a DVT or PE related event in America, and some groups such as African Americans are at a significantly higher risk of developing these conditions," said Dr. Graham, who lost his sister to PE. "Many of the causes of DVT are entirely preventable and easily treatable, so it's crucial that people understand their level of risk and take action to reduce this. Improved awareness and access to treatment can save a great number of lives."
To help raise awareness, the VDC has launched the "Pause for Prevention" DVT and PE Assessment, a tool to help people better understand if they are at risk for DVT or PE. This is available on http://www.venousdiseasecoalition.org.
"I suffered from DVT just over six years ago when I was in my mid-twenties, and the experience was daunting. Not necessarily because of the clots per se, those were treatable, but because it took several trips to doctors and the ER before I had an accurate diagnosis and started to receive appropriate treatment," comments Traci Wilkes Smith. "I am reaching out to others to let them know to ask more questions and be more aggressive if you suspect something is wrong. Know the signs and be an informed patient, it could save your life."
Approximately 350,000 to 600,000 Americans suffer from DVT and PE each year, and at least 100,000 deaths may be directly or indirectly related to these diseases. African Americans have a remarkable 30 percent higher risk of DVT and PE than the Caucasian population.1
According to Samuel Z. Goldhaber, MD, president of the Venous Disease Coalition and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, "With prompt diagnosis and treatment, the majority of DVTs are not life threatening. We can help reduce deaths from these serious yet often preventable conditions through education and outreach to at-risk groups including African Americans."
DVT occurs when a blood clot develops in the large veins of the legs or pelvic area. With prompt diagnosis and treatment, the majority of DVTs are not life threatening. However, DVT can be dangerous in two ways. First, DVT can be fatal if a blood clot breaks free and travels through the heart and into the lungs. This complication is called pulmonary embolism (PE). Second, because blood clots can permanently damage the veins, as many as half of DVT survivors can experience post-thrombotic syndrome which causes long-term leg pain, heaviness and swelling that can progress to difficulty walking, changes in skin color and open leg sores.
Risk factors for developing DVT / PE include extended bed rest (such as during or after a surgical procedure or illness (such as heart attack or stroke), or confinement and inability to walk (such as during prolonged air or car travel), hereditary factors, medical conditions (such as congestive heart failure, severe obesity, chronic respiratory failure), a history of smoking, varicose veins, pregnancy and estrogen treatment, and some cancers or cancer treatments that predispose the blood to clotting. Reasons why African Americas are at increased risk for DVT and PE remain to be determined. To view a short video clip of Dr. Graham speaking about the increased risks for DVT and PE in African Americans visit, here.
At last year's VDC meeting, Acting Surgeon General Rear Admiral Steven K. Galson issued "The Surgeon General's Call to Action for the Prevention of Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism."
About Dr. Garth Graham
Dr. Garth N. Graham is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health and Director of the Office of Minority Health at the Department of Health and Human Services. He was previously appointed a White House Fellow and special assistant the Secretary of Health and Human Services. He founded the Boston Men's Cardiovascular Health Project, a project designed to identify behavioral explanations for decreased adherence to adequate diet and exercise by African American men. He is currently on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and serves as a visiting scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health. He has authored scientific articles and presentations on cardiovascular disease, HIV/AIDS and community medicine.
About the Venous Disease Coalition
The Venous Disease Coalition (VDC) is an alliance of more than 35 leading health professional societies and patient advocacy groups that have united around a common goal: To improve the survival rates and quality of life for individuals with, or at risk for, venous disease. The VDC plans to develop a national campaign to educate public and health care professionals in the U.S. about venous disease. The VDC is supported by unrestricted educational grants from AngioDynamics Inc., BioMedix, BSN Jobst, Cook Medical, Covidien, Eisai Inc., Juzo and Sanofi-aventis. It is a program of the Vascular Disease Foundation. For more information, visit http://www.VenousDiseaseCoalition.org.
1 White RH, Zhou H, Murin S, Harvey D. Effect of ethnicity and gender on the incidence of venous thromboembolism in a diverse population in California in 1996. Thromb Haemost 2005;93(2):298-305.
Vascular Disease Foundation