Video gamers vs. blood clots -

Video gamers vs. blood clots

Computer and video gaming entertainment continues to grow with now 69 percent of American heads of households playing.

Many parents would prefer their children keeping their brains engaged to getting into mischief, but doctors say an overdose of the activity could have potentially fatal side effects. 

Twenty-year-old Chris Staniforth built his life around his Xbox. He often logged in sessions lasting about 12 hours. He died from a pulmonary embolism, a blot clot that likely traveled from his leg to his lungs, blocking off the blood flow.

Embolisms can occur in otherwise healthy people and the symptoms, typically, pain and shortness of breath, are often sudden.

"It could be a life-threatening situation," says Dr. Stuart Salmon of Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.

While a smaller clot may pass, a large clot will get lodged inside the pulmonary veins as they narrow towards the lungs.

If a clot develops in the legs and swelling, redness and pain is noticed, doctors will use an ultrasound for diagnosis. If the clot has broken off and traveled to the chest, accompanied by pain, a CAT scan is used and the person must be taken to the emergency room.

When a clot like this forms deep within the legs, it's called Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). More than 350,000 cases of DVT are reported annually, according to the Surgeon General's report.

Staniforth's death was tragic and for some die-hard gamers, frustrating.

"It was moronic!" says Kevin Plumley, who has been a gamer for more than two decades.

Plumley has set up his home for gaming with black-out curtains and a recliner chair, but he warns the extremes that gamers go to can be disturbing.

"They've actually invested in adult diapers and put mini fridges next to their chair so they don't have to get up for days at a time," says Plumley. "That's ridiculous, it's disgusting."

Unfortunately, that sort of sit-still behavior is not that far off from a typical office. Many professionals can clock in well over 10 hours a day at their desk, or during air travel.

Doctors say it's normal for the blood to pool in the legs when there is little activity. The venous system is low-pressure and blood moves slowly to and from the heart. The muscles in the leg help circulation as we move.

Without that movement, pooling can occur and the body's natural response is to clot. Clotting is a critical function of the body, helping prevent serious bleeding.

Doctors say most people can sit for long periods without concern. However, several risk factors predispose individuals for clot formation. Add those risk factors to little movement, gravity and slow circulations – and you have the perfect conditions for a clot.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk factors include: a family history of blood clots, obesity, varicose veins, and certain medications like birth control, prior injury to a vein, pregnancy, age (older), smoking and high blood pressure.

"The best, simplest, cheapest thing to do is just get up and walk!" says Dr. Salmon.

It's free preventative care that he says should happen every half hour or so. Even just simple stretching can get the blood flowing.

"Gaming is a way of life, but it's not the end-all, be-all of life," says Plumley.

If gamers (and office workers) don't know their risks and don't take action, they could be setting themselves up for a life lived on blood thinners and compression socks.

Which is why Plumley and Dr. Salmon recommend parents set a certain time limit to pull the plug.

"Take the power cord away. If there's no power, they can't play," says Plumley.

Copyright 2011 America Now. All rights reserved.

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