How to Avoid Varicose Veins

Written By Center for Vein Restoration
Blog Image Howto Avoid Varicose Veins

According to the Society for Vascular Surgery, varicose veins are a common condition affecting up to 35 percent of people in the United States. These enlarged, twisted, swollen, often itchy leg veins can be unsightly and cause significant discomfort. If left untreated, varicose vein disease can lead to more serious health problems, such as venous ulcers and blood clots.

In this blog, we will review the causes and risk factors associated with chronic venous insufficiency (the root cause of varicose veins) and offer tips on how to avoid vein conditions. Because several risk factors (such as sex, age, and family history) are out of one's control, we will also provide information about safe and effective outpatient treatment options for people with vein problems.

What causes varicose veins?

Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) is a condition where the one-way valves in the leg veins become damaged or weakened, allowing blood to flow backward and pool in the legs. This increases pressure in the leg veins, leading to a range of symptoms: swelling in the legs and ankles, heavy, tight, tired, achy legs, skin changes, restless legs, and varicose veins.

The main risk factors for varicose veins include:

  • Family history: Varicose veins have a strong genetic component, and there is up to a 90 percent chance of developing them if both parents have the condition.
  • Age: The risk of chronic venous insufficiency increases with age, as the veins and valves tend to weaken over time. According to the Cleveland Clinic, people over 50 are at higher risk of CVI, affecting about 1 in 20 of all adults.
  • Gender: Women are more likely than men to develop varicose veins, likely due to hormonal factors and pregnancy. According to a study reported by the National Library of Medicine (NIH), the prevalence of varicose veins in women with zero, one, two, three, and four or more pregnancies was 32 percent, 38 percent, 43 percent, 48 percent, and 59 percent, respectively.
  • Obesity and excess weight: Excess weight significantly raises your risk of varicose veins. Women with a BMI over 30 are especially prone, being three times more likely to develop them.
  • Prolonged standing or sitting: Lack of movement can cause blood to pool in the leg veins, leading to varicose veins.
  • Pregnancy: According to Penn Medicine, blood volume increases by as much as 20 percent during pregnancy while the number of veins remains the same, taxing the body's vascular system. Spikes in progesterone and the hormones that relax the ligaments in the pelvis and smooth muscle cells in the vein walls, as well as the uterus's extra weight, all contribute to the development of varicose veins.
  • Leg injury: Trauma to the leg can damage the veins and valves, increasing the risk of varicose veins.
  • Smoking: The chemicals in cigarette smoke can damage the delicate valves in your veins, making it harder for blood to flow properly, worsening varicose veins.

While several risk factors for varicose veins are outside our control, you can still take proactive steps to reduce your risk and manage symptoms if they do occur. However, if you are starting to experience the telltale signs of chronic venous insufficiency, such as swollen, achy legs, skin discoloration, or visible varicose veins, it's crucial to seek professional diagnosis and medical treatment.

Center for Vein Restoration (CVR) is the nation's largest physician-led vein center, providing comprehensive vein care, with over 120 locations staffed by highly trained vein specialist physicians. Their minimally invasive outpatient treatment options provide safe and effective relief from varicose veins and their underlying causes.

Don't resign yourself to living with the pain and discomfort of vein disease—trust the experts at CVR to get you back on your feet and free of varicose veins! Call 240-965-3915 to speak to a Patient Services Representative or schedule your consultation online at a CVR near you today.

Tips for preventing varicose veins

While CVI is a common condition, it is important to recognize the risk factors and take proactive steps to prevent it from developing or worsening. There are several steps you can take to avoid developing varicose veins. Let's explore the top strategies for maintaining healthy circulation in your legs and preventing varicose veins.

Exercise Regularly
One of the most effective ways to prevent varicose veins is to engage in regular physical activity. Your leg muscles serve as pumps working against gravity's effects, pushing blood back up toward your heart.

Any type of leg exercise, such as walking, running, cycling, or yoga, can make a difference by helping to improve blood flow and reduce the risk of varicose veins. Strive for at least 30 minutes of exercise daily.

Maintain a Healthy Weight
Excess weight can strain your leg veins, increasing the risk of varicose veins. If you're overweight, losing even a few pounds can decrease the pressure on your veins and improve your overall circulation. Achieving and maintaining a healthy body mass index (BMI) should be a priority, as it benefits your vein health and reduces your risk of other conditions like heart disease and diabetes.

Wear Compression Stockings
Compression stockings are a highly effective tool for preventing and managing varicose veins. These specialized garments apply gentle pressure to your legs, helping to keep blood flowing in the right direction and reducing the pooling that can lead to varicose veins.

Different compression levels are available, so it's important to consult with your healthcare provider or a vein specialist to determine the right fit and compression level for your needs. Wearing compression stockings regularly, especially if you have a sedentary job or are at high risk for varicose veins, can make a significant difference.

Avoid Prolonged Sitting or Standing
Research reported by the National Library of Medicine (NIH) shows that sitting for long periods is linked to several health problems, including obesity, high blood pressure, fatigue, discomfort, and chronic venous insufficiency, which is the root cause of varicose veins.

  • What's the connection between sitting and vein disease?

The lack of movement makes it harder for your leg muscles to pump blood back to your heart, increasing pressure and pooling in your veins. Therefore, if your job requires you to stand or sit for long periods, alternate between standing and sitting whenever possible.

To offset this, take regular breaks and move around throughout the day. If you're sitting at a desk for long hours, set a reminder to stand up and stretch or take a short walk every 30 minutes to an hour. If you stand all day for work, try to elevate yourself at least several times daily (see tips below).

Elevate Your Legs
Elevating your legs above heart level can help reduce the pressure on your veins and improve blood flow. Try spending 15-20 minutes a few times daily with your legs raised on a wall, chair, or other elevated surface. If you have a job that requires prolonged sitting or standing, this simple practice can counteract the effects of gravity on your leg veins.

Adding leg elevation into your daily routine can be a game-changer for preventing and managing varicose veins.

Stop Smoking
Quitting smoking can be challenging, but the benefits for your vein health and overall well-being are significant (and worth the effort!). To increase your chances of success, seek support from your healthcare provider or join a smoking cessation program. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers many resources for smoking cessation.

Eat a Healthy Diet
While diet alone may not eliminate varicose veins, maintaining a balanced, nutrient-rich diet can support overall vein health. Eat foods high in fiber, potassium, and antioxidants, which can help improve circulation and reduce inflammation. Avoid foods high in salt; excess sodium can contribute to fluid retention and worsen varicose vein symptoms.

Follow these "Healthy Eating for a Healthy Weight" tips provided by the CDC.

Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated throughout the day is essential for maintaining healthy veins. The American Heart Association recommends water as the best hydration source and that once you're thirsty, you're already dehydrated. Sugary sports drinks are high in calories and should be reserved for high-intensity exercise in hot weather.

Early Intervention is Key to Avoiding Varicose Veins

While varicose veins are common, they are not something you have to accept as inevitable. By being proactive and implementing these strategies, you can strengthen the health of your circulatory system and avoid developing varicose veins. With the right lifestyle changes and vein care, you can keep your legs looking and feeling their best!

If you start experiencing symptoms such as heavy, achy legs or visible varicose veins, don't delay seeking consultation and treatment with a board-certified Center for Vein Restoration (CVR) vein doctor. Call 240-965-3915 to speak to a Patient Services Representative or schedule your consultation online at a CVR near you today.

CVR accepts many insurances, including Aetna, Amerigroup, Anthem, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Cigna, MultiPlan, Medicaid, Medicare, and more.

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