Varicose veins are unsightly, painful, and sadly very common. According to the US government, half of people older than 50 have varicose veins or have had them before. If you want to stay in the healthy 50% as you get older, you'll first need to understand how they form and what you can do to keep your circulatory system healthy.
What Causes Varicose Veins To Form?
Your circulatory system has to fight gravity every time it wants to return blood to your heart from your legs. To do this, it uses a system of valves that push the blood upwards and prevent it from staying in one place too long. When these valves are weakened and can't push blood effectively, it can start to pool in the veins of your legs. The added volume of blood leads to the darkening and swelling characteristic of varicose veins.
Weakening of the valves that help move blood back up into the torso can be caused by several factors, many of which can overlap and increase your risk for varicose veins. You may need to consider preventative measures if you are any of the following:
- Getting older. The circulatory system becomes less efficient over time, and weakening of the veins is common as you advance in age.
- Female. Women have a 10-15% higher chance of developing varicose veins.
- Subject to strong hormone changes. Many health conditions and medications can cause hormone shifts, so you'll have to ask your doctor about your specific case. Certain hormones can cause the vein walls to relax, reducing their ability to pump blood.
- Obese. Being significantly overweight is associated with a negative impact on vein health.
- Pregnant. Pregnancy combines the risk factors for women, overweight people, and those with shifting hormones, putting expectant mothers triply at risk.
- Taking certain birth control pills. Medicines with high levels of estrogen can raise your risk for varicose veins.
If you have any of these factors and especially if you have multiple ones, you need to start planning for varicose vein prevention.
Which Lifestyle Changes Help Prevent Them?
The best way to prevent most illnesses is to live a healthy lifestyle. No, it's not as easy as taking a pill, but a healthy lifestyle is the surest way to prevent developing varicose veins and protect your overall vein health.
Drinking within moderation is acceptable for those at risk, but smoking is not. Studies have shown smoking to contribute to high blood pressure and weakening of the veins in your legs, which results in the pooling of blood that forms varicose veins. If you currently smoke and are at risk, talk to your doctor about alternatives like nicotine gum, patches, or e-cigarettes.
Keep your weight within a healthy range. A little excess fat is okay, but being very overweight or obese will strain your body. Make sure that you eat a balanced diet and engage in a variety of exercise activities. You should also ensure that these exercises are low-impact, so as to reduce the strain on your legs. Similarly, you should try to avoid standing for hours straight during the day. Try to take a quick 10-15 minute sitting break for every two hours of standing that you do.
Avoid sitting for long periods with your legs touching the floor. If you must sit for more than two hours at a time, elevate your legs and keep your knees unbent. This will ensure that blood can easily flow back into the torso. You should also get up and walk around for 10-15 minutes for every two hours of sitting, which will get the blood in your legs moving.
If varicose veins are a serious concern for you and you already have some problems with circulation in your legs, consider buying a pair of compression stockings. These stockings apply pressure that helps force blood back up the legs, ensuring that it doesn't pool in one place for too long. Before you buy the stockings, make sure you're getting the right size. If they're too loose, they won't help you, and stockings that are too tight can wind up hurting you worse than not wearing anything at all.
Changing your lifestyle may not happen overnight, but luckily, neither will varicose veins. Talk to your doctor or a place like Vein Clinic Of Las Vegas about healing measures you can take and warning symptoms of bad vein health in the legs. With proactive measures, you should be able to keep your legs healthy and beautiful, no matter what your age.