These Healthy Habits Help Prevent Varicose Veins
Good circulation is critical to your health. Problems with blood flow can cause unwanted changes in your appearance and uncomfortable aches and pains. In some cases, they can even be dangerous.
Veins transport blood from your feet and ankles back to your heart, moving against the steady force of gravity. Blood travels in the correct direction despite gravity’s constant pull downward thanks to a system of one-way valves that prevent backflow. This system works well when your veins are healthy — but if the valves become weak or damaged, they can no longer resist gravity and blood begins to flow backward. This leads to the twisted, bulging surface blood vessels we call varicose veins.
As you set your health and fitness goals for the new year, we encourage you to think about how you can advance the well-being of every part of your body — including the parts you can’t see in a mirror. Dr. Paul McNeill, Dr. Garth Rosenberg and their staff at Capitol Vein & Laser Centers offer the following tips for improving vein health and preventing varicose veins.
Avoid Prolonged Periods of Sitting or Standing
Sitting or standing in the same position for too long puts excessive pressure on parts of your body and makes it harder for blood to travel against gravity through your leg veins. Eventually, this can lead to blood pooling in your lower legs and ankles, causing them to swell and ache. If your job requires you to sit at a desk, get up and move at regular intervals. If you have to stand while you work, shift your weight between your legs to decrease venous pressure and keep your blood circulating. Make an effort to move as often as you can, whether that means skipping the elevator in favor of the stairs or taking a walk during your break instead of checking your email.
Practice Proper Office Ergonomics
Slumping over a desk all day isn’t just bad news for your back. Maintaining good posture also helps keep your circulatory system in proper alignment. Sit up straight with your shoulders relaxed down your back and your legs uncrossed. Do not lean your head down or poke your neck forward. Adjust your chair height until your knees are in line with, or slightly lower than, your hips and your feet rest flat on the floor. Good posture reduces varicose veins symptoms by ensuring blood can flow unencumbered through your body, while also improving common issues like neck, back and wrist pain.
Exercise From Your Desk
Sitting may be unavoidable, but being immobile is not. You can stay active by performing small exercises from your desk, such as rotating your ankles, peddling your feet, raising your toes, or bending your knees and legs in a marching motion. These exercises are also useful if you spend a lot of time on planes or trains, or if you want to give your circulation a boost while catching up on your favorite TV show.
Wear Compression Stockings
Wearing compression stockings or socks is one of the most common suggestions for varicose veins prevention. These garments gently squeeze your legs to encourage blood flow back to your heart. The constant pressure can help minimize swelling, reduce aching and prevent blood clots. Although compression stockings won't cure varicose veins, they can combat the discomfort that often accompanies them and minimize the impact of standing or sitting for extended periods.
Regular exercise is essential for a healthy lifestyle. The numerous benefits of physical activity include promoting better blood circulation in your legs, helping you maintain a healthy weight and lowering your blood pressure — all factors that play a role in reducing your risk for varicose veins or easing your symptoms if you already have them. Incorporating exercise into your schedule doesn’t have to mean spending a fortune on a personal trainer or taking up an extreme sport. Even low-impact activities can have a profound effect on your health without placing excessive strain on your body. Your vein specialist can help you develop an exercise regimen that is suitable for your age, fitness level and interests.
Do These Exercises
Believe it or not, one of the best varicose veins exercises you can do is also one of the simplest: walking. Walking is gentle on the body, safe for most ages and fitness levels, and highly beneficial for lowering your blood pressure. Other effective, low-impact forms of exercise include:
- Using an elliptical machine.
If you want to work out at home, there are plenty of leg exercises you can do that don’t require an instructor or special equipment. Try forward lunges, side lunges, bicycle kicks, calf raises, rocking toe to heel, marching in place and kneeling or reclining leg lifts. Make it your goal to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
Avoid These Exercises
Depending on the severity of your varicose veins, your vein specialist may recommend avoiding strenuous and high-impact forms of exercise. Proceed with caution if you are into running, as it puts a great deal of strain on your legs from the constant pounding against the treadmill or ground. Weightlifting can also put a substantial amount of stress on your circulatory system. Always consult your vein specialist prior to beginning an exercise program — they are your primary resource for choosing workouts that help, not hinder, your health goals.
Elevate Your Legs
As important as it is to move, it’s also important to rest. Elevate your legs, ideally above your heart, while you’re relaxing in the evening, or several times throughout the day if you are more sedentary. You can do this by propping them up on pillows or a larger stuffed object, or by resting them up against a wall. Elevating your legs reduces pressure in your leg veins and can help relieve swelling or aching caused by backed-up blood flow. In this position, gravity helps the blood travel easily back to your heart.
Speak With a Physician About Varicose Veins
Physical activity can provide relief from uncomfortable varicose vein symptoms, but exercise alone isn’t always enough. Unsightly veins can appear despite a regular exercise regimen and can progress even if you’re committed to staying active. If home remedies are not working, medical treatment is available to help you get your vein health back on track. Visit Capitol Vein & Laser Centers at one of our locations in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and West Virginia to learn more about how to prevent varicose veins and discuss your treatment options. You can reach us at (866) 695-8346 to schedule a consultation.We accept all major insurance plans including Medicare.