The combination of dehydration and cramped seating can result in blood pooling in the legs and trigger the formation of blood clots (a condition called deep vein thrombosis); the longer the flight, the greater the risk.
Q. What are healthy strategies for enduring a long plane ride?
A. These days in particular, plane trips are no joy ride; you're smart to look for ways to ease your discomfort. For starters, typical cabin air is extremely dry, so wear lip balm and drink water (or other noncaffeinated, nonalcoholic beverages) frequently. Don't worry about the extra bathroom trips; it's good for your circulation to get up at least once an hour.
The combination of dehydration and cramped seating can result in blood pooling in the legs and trigger the formation of blood clots (a condition called deep vein thrombosis); the longer the flight, the greater the risk. To reduce your risk, take a stroll to the bathroom or around the cabin every half-hour or so, and do some simple stretches while in your seat. It doesn't have to be anything fancy. Try a few sets of ankle circles, alternate foot and knee lifts, and bring your knees to your chest.
If you are at high risk for these types of blood clots during long flights, you might consider trying the supplement nattokinase, which is derived from the soyfood natto (widely eaten in Japan). Although the research is still in its early stages, this supplement appears to be safe and may reduce the chances of deep vein thrombosis.
Finally, everyone's favorite: jet lag. Once you get to your destination, try taking 1 to 3 mg of the natural hormone melatonin about one hour before bedtime. It should help get your sleep schedule back in sync.
This Q&A was written by Victoria Dolby Toews, MPH, author of the The Soy Sensation (McGraw-Hill, 2002) and The Green Tea Book (Avery, 1998).