Does Weight Gain Lead to Vein Disease?

deep vein thrombosis

Excess weight can lead to painful varicose veins — but if you already have vein complications, you should seek treatment before starting a new exercise routine.

Obesity can lead to a wide variety of chronic health problems, from heart disease to diabetes. More than one-third of the U.S. population is classified as obese (according to the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention), which means that a huge number of adults are at risk for serious diseases.

In particular, this demographic has a high-likelihood of developing vascular disease. Excess weight can put immense pressure on veins that transport blood from the extremities to the heart. When overworked, these veins are unable to function properly, which can lead to painful varicose veins and even life-threatening blood clots.

How Obesity Causes Vein Disease

Veins act as passageways between the heart and the rest of the body, funneling blood from the lower limbs upward to the heart. Inside the veins are small valves that pump blood towards the heart so that blood can be replenished with oxygen before circulating again throughout the body.

Being overweight puts strain on the entire vascular system. Under these conditions, blood is unable to move freely. Instead, it collects in the veins, damaging the valves and causing the veins to enlarge. This restricted blood flow typically results in bulging blue and purple varicose veins.

Anyone with a body mass index (BMI) in excess of 25 has an increased chance of developing varicose or spider veins. These venous diseases can result in more serious conditions as well, including blood clots produced by Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). Blood clots can be life-threatening if they loosen within the veins and travel into an artery. In fact, the CDC estimates that between 60,000 and 100,000 people die from DVT each year.

Seek Treatment Before Beginning a Weight Loss Program

Of course, regular exercise boosts overall circulation and promotes healthy veins; however, obese individuals suffering from varicose veins should avoid strenuous exercise. Some activities may actually worsen vein disease: weight-lifting, for example, puts excess pressure on veins if done incorrectly, and running, especially on a hard surface, can also be harmful.

If you’re overweight and suffering from varicose veins, it’s best to treat the vein disease before starting a weight-loss exercise program. Consult a vein specialist for a proper diagnosis and effective treatment plan. He or she may recommend lifestyle changes, like cutting down on salt and switching to a diet that’s high in fiber and lean protein, or wearing compression stockings that help maintain proper blood flow in the legs.

In addition to lifestyle changes, your doctor may recommend a procedure, such as radiofrequency ablation, laser ablation, ambulatory phlebectomy, ultrasound-guided foam sclerotherapy, or visual sclerotherapy.

Exercising After Treatment

Treating the vein condition prior to beginning an exercise regimen means you’ll have less pain and more energy to stick with the plan. And you should always ask your doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen, to ensure that the activities serve to bolster your vein health, rather than undermine it.

Here’s a brief list of exercises that promote circulation and weight loss:

  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Gardening
  • Dancing
  • Rowing
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Yoga and stretching

Weight loss promises many health benefits, particularly for those who suffer from vein disease. With the proper treatment and a smart exercise routine, painful vein related issues need not be a barrier to living a full life.

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