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March is Deep-Vein Thrombosis Awareness Month, which may have gone unnoticed if not for news of tennis star Serena Williams’ recovery from a pulmonary embolism she had last week.

In case you’re unaware of the connection between deep-vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, the former, commonly known as DVT, is a clot formed deep in the veins of the lower leg, thigh or pelvis. The piece of the clot that detaches and travels through the arteries to the lungs is a pulmonary embolism. Once the traveling clot is in the arteries, it can obstruct the flow of blood to the lungs and cause the heart to overwork, possibly becoming fatal.

“It’s what we call sudden death – you’re feeling good one minute and the next you’re dead because so much pressure is put on your heart and it stops,” explains Roy L. Silverstein, M.D. of The Cleveland Clinic Foundation.

The Centers for Disease Controlreports that of the 200,000 to 400,000 people who have DVT in the United States, 25 percent of those occurrences would develop into pulmonary embolisms.

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