About one in four adults in the United States have varicose veins, or dark, rope-like leg veins that twist and bulge just beneath the skin. Chronic venous insufficiency, a common and largely silent condition that doesn’t cause obvious symptoms until it’s more advanced, is the primary underlying cause of most varicose veins.
While anyone can develop varicose veins, older adults and women are more likely to get them than younger adults and men. Beyond age and gender, there are many other factors that can contribute to the formation of this unsightly and sometimes painful leg vein problem.
Here, board-certified general surgeon and varicose vein specialist Johnny L. Serrano, DO, FACOS, discusses nine simple strategies that can help you reduce your risk of varicose veins.
1. Don’t sit for long stretches
Your veins contain a series of one-way valves that keep deoxygenated blood flowing in the right direction (toward your heart). When these valves become weak or damaged, blood no longer flows through them properly — instead, it pools behind them and makes your vein swell.
A sedentary lifestyle can make the valves in your veins become sedentary, too. When valves spend less time practicing their pumping action, they become weaker and less functional, setting the stage for varicose veins.
2. Avoid prolonged standing
For the same reason you shouldn’t spend a lot of time sitting, you should also avoid prolonged periods of standing on your feet. Standing may not qualify as a sedentary activity, but if you’re mostly standing still, it’s all the same to your vein valves.
The valves in your veins don’t actively practice their pumping action when you’re standing; at the same time, they must work a little harder against gravity to keep blood flowing toward your heart. Help them out by taking regular movement, stretching, and sitting breaks.
3. Stay physically active
Regular exercise strengthens your muscles and your heart and gives your circulation a boost. You don’t have to hit the gym or develop a complicated routine to benefit — simply taking a 30-minute walk each day can improve the circulation in your legs and help protect against varicose veins.
4. Maintain a healthy weight
When your body stores a substantial amount of excess fat, your entire circulatory system has to work harder to supply the extra tissues with the oxygen and nutrients they need. Apart from straining your heart, being overweight or obese overburdens the veins in your legs.
While maintaining a healthy body weight offers the best protection against varicose veins, you don’t have to reach your target weight to effectively reduce your risk. Every pound you lose helps ease the burden on your blood vessels.
5. Don’t smoke cigarettes
If you smoke, you probably already know the myriad of unhealthy ways this hard-to-quit habit can affect your body. Now, you can add one more negative to the list: smoking dramatically increases your risk of developing cardiovascular and circulatory problems, including varicose veins.
6. Eat a heart-healthy diet
Anything that promotes cardiovascular health helps protect against varicose veins. This includes eating a heart-healthy diet that’s high in fiber (plant-based whole foods) and low in sodium and sugar (processed foods). A wholesome diet can help keep your cholesterol and blood pressure levels in check to support healthy arteries and veins.
7. Avoid high heels and tight pants
If tight jeans and high heels are wardrobe staples for you, get ready for some bad news. Clothes that fit tightly around your waist, legs, and groin area can restrict blood flow to and from your lower body, as can high heels. To reduce your varicose vein risk, keep your pants comfortably loose and your heels low.
8. Elevate your legs
To give your leg veins a gravity assist that helps ease pressure on their hardworking valves, try elevating your legs so they’re slightly above your heart. Put your feet up when you’re relaxing, raise your legs with pillows as you sleep, or take a few minutes each day to lie on the floor with your legs resting up against a wall.
9. Wear compression stockings
Specially designed to assist your veins in the upward movement of blood from your feet to your heart, compression stockings can help reduce the likelihood of varicose veins if you have numerous risk factors, such as family history, older age, female gender, taller height, and multiple pregnancies.
To learn more about varicose vein prevention or find out which varicose vein treatment options are available at Precision Surgery and Advanced Vein Therapy in Glendale, Arizona, call 602-393-1304 or click online to book an appointment with Dr. Serrano today.