In addition, while VTE was found in both men and women, the rate was higher among women, especially those 10 to 40 years old. After 50, however, the risk was higher in men than women, the researchers noted.
Risk factors for VTE include surgery, heart failure, smoking, obesity, cancer, long periods of inactivity (such as when driving or flying), sitting or lying in bed, fractures in the legs or hip and taking birth control pills.
Modifying these risk factors can lower your risk for VTE, Zoller said. After heart attack and stroke, VTE is the most common cardiovascular illness and affects one in 1,000 people each year, the researchers said.
Commenting on the study, Dr. Jack Ansell, chairman of the department of medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said that "the study confirms a lot of what we know, but it also provides impetus to greater investigation of genetic and non-genetic factors."
However, Ansell noted that genetics is not the whole story. "There are many individuals with inherited predisposition that never have a problem, so it's not an all or none phenomenon," he said.
Conversely, if you don't have a family history of VTE, that doesn't mean that you will not have one, Ansell said. "There are clearly people who have no risk for a VTE who end up with an event due to acquired factors like an accident or cancer," he said.
This study should not cause people to panic, as the risk for having a VTE is low regardless of family history, Ansell said.
However, he added that people with a family history of VTE should let their doctor know before undergoing any surgery. This will allow the doctor to take preventive measures to prevent the risk of clotting.
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