Varicose veins. Those ropy, bulging veins that show up most often in your legs are more than just a risk to your self-esteem. If left untreated they can cause health complications like bleeding, blood clots, ulcers or worse.
Not to be confused with spider veins, which are those thin web-like lines that can show up in arms, legs and even your face, varicose veins is a medical condition that requires the care of a qualified physician.
But can you actually prevent varicose veins from occurring in the first place?
Unfortunately, most instances of varicose veins are hereditary. That means if your mother has them, there’s a better than average chance that you’ll have them, too.
So what if it does run in the family? Can you take steps to avoid them or is it all in the hands of fate?
Well, it turns out that you can reduce your risk factors, which in turn can reduce the likelihood and severity of varicose veins, even if you are genetically predisposed to them.
These are some ways you can stave off their occurrence. And if you do find yourself with the condition, these tips can help reduce their recurrence after you’ve had them treated.
You’ve probably seen them: those champion weight lifters who exert so much effort to bench press that it looks like the are quite literally going to pop a vein.
Unfortunately, they may very well be doing serious damage to their veins by forcing blood through them in a way that nature didn’t intend.
A daily walk or some weight-bearing exercise is good for your health but too much strenuous activity can really take a toll on your veins. And you don’t have to be a champion weight lifter to see the effects.
Avoid heavy lifting and squatting that can exert excess pressure on your veins, especially if you are at risk.
We all know how important exercise is for maintaining a healthy mind and body but if you’re at risk for varicose veins and steering clear of weight lifting, what’s a better option?
When it comes to preventing varicose veins, all exercise is not created equal. Your best bet is to engage in an ultra-low-impact activity like the elliptical machine or swimming.
If you don’t have access to a gym or gym equipment, try walking. Walking is a fantastic low impact exercise that you can do just about anywhere. Take it outside if the weather is agreeable or grab your car keys and hop over to the local indoor mall for a few laps. Just be careful to avoid the food court!
Speaking of the food court, those few extra pounds can really exacerbate varicose veins. Obesity and being overweight increases your risk of developing them and can make them worse if you do.
The good news is that dropping a few pounds can have great benefits – not only on your veins but for your overall health, too.
There’s more to a mid-afternoon coffee break than getting your caffeine fix. For those of us who stand all day, that few minutes can have tremendous health benefits – if you sit down, that is.
Professionals who are on their feet a lot – doctors, nurses, teachers, counter clerks, hairdressers – are at greater risk of developing varicose veins.
If that sounds like you, take frequent breaks and put your feet up.
Better yet, pick up a pair of compression stockings and wear them under skirts or pants daily. The pressure they exert can keep blood flowing more effectively and reduce expansion of veins that can occur when you put pressure on them by standing all day.
You can purchase them through a retail location but if you’ve already been diagnosed with varicose veins then be sure to wear the stockings that your doctor prescribes.
As an added bonus? Compression stockings can help reduce that feeling of aching legs and tired feet.
Did you know that high heel shoes were originally worn by men? They were first used by Persian soldiers as a way to keep their feet stable in stirrups during battle and long rides on horseback.
In the 17th century they caught on among the European aristocracy – men and women alike – and lost all sense of the practical. In fact, it was said that only people who didn’t have to work could afford to wear such impractical shoes!
And yet they persist among women today as standard fare for work and play.
While they may be fashionable they are certainly no friends of your health. Wearing heels puts stress on your ankles and calves, which affects the pumping mechanism that keeps blood flowing smoothly through veins.
Chronic wearing of heels is a recipe for varicose veins.
If you must wear them, do it for short periods and try to avoid standing for extended periods. Walk to work in practical shoes and swap them for heels once you’re at your desk. Wear them to parties then grab your cocktail and have a seat.
Better yet, wear flats. Especially if you’re already in an at-risk profession.
And another interesting tidbit? Contrary to popular belief, crossing your legs does not cause varicose veins.
If you’re in a risk group for varicose veins or have had them treated in the past, it pays to have regular ultrasounds to help diagnose, check for dangers like blood clots or to determine a course of treatment.
An ultrasound is a non-invasive procedure that can be done right in your doctor’s office and since varicose veins are a medical condition, it is most likely covered by your insurance.
Don’t wait – if you’re in a risk group or experiencing symptoms, an ultrasound now can save you negative health effects later.
So while it’s not entirely possible to prevent varicose veins from occurring, there are ways you can reduce your risk factors for getting them and you can help reduce their severity and recurrence if you do get them.