Varicose veins – Prevention is Not in Vain

Varicose veins are very common, impacting around 25% of women and 15% of men aged 15 years and above. Often dismissed as merely concerning because of their appearance, they can indicate other health issues and require serious attention.

Comprising twisted, enlarged veins, varicose veins usually occur on the legs and feet because of the effect of gravity. Spider veins are a milder, smaller type of varicose veins, so-called because they often look like a spider web. They appear red or blue and commonly occur on the face and legs, just under the skin.

When veins are healthy, they ensure that blood flows smoothly to the heart. They prevent blood from flowing backwards using a series of tiny valves, similar to the locks in a canal. However, if those valves become damaged or weakened, blood can flow back again and collect at the lower valve. This can then lead to a build-up of blood, causing the vein to swell.

Any vein near the skin’s surface can become varicose, resulting in aching, heavy and uncomfortable legs, swollen feet and ankles, and burning or throbbing. There can be cramping, especially at night, and the skin over the veins can become dry, thin and itchy.

Risk factors for developing varicose veins include pregnancy and obesity, which put added pressure on veins, wear and tear from ageing, and standing or sitting for long periods. Women tend to develop varicose veins more than men, which may be because female hormones can relax vein walls.

Though they are considered more common than heart and peripheral arterial disease combined, varicose veins are generally underdiagnosed and undertreated. And whilst complications are rare, there is still a chance of inflammation, ulcers, or blood clots forming, so it makes sense to minimise that risk by improving blood flow and muscle tone.

Ways to help improve varicose veins 

Adopting a balanced diet rich in antioxidants and nutrients contributes to overall health. Foods like berries, citrus fruits, and leafy greens provide the body with essential vitamins and minerals.

Proper hydration supports overall circulatory health by maintaining vein elasticity. Drinking adequate water throughout the day helps ensure that blood can flow smoothly through the veins.

Regular exercise, particularly activities like walking, swimming, tai chi, or yoga, supports circulation and can also help manage weight, reducing the burden on veins.

Avoiding prolonged periods of sitting or standing is crucial for preventing varicose veins. Changing positions regularly is vital for encouraging blood flow. Short breaks to move and stretch throughout the day keep blood circulating and reduce the risk of developing or worsening varicose veins. Elevating the legs, especially after a long day, can relieve pressure on veins and encourage blood to flow back towards the heart.

Avoid over-tight hosiery, which can limit circulation. However, well-fitting compression socks or stockings can provide beneficial external support, aiding proper blood circulation and reducing the symptoms associated with varicose veins.

Is it time to ditch the heels?

Choose footwear that prioritises comfort and support. High heels move the weight to the fore of the foot and the toes, causing the calf muscles to remain contracted. As a result, the foot and calf veins do not fill as well, and the calf muscle pump is less forceful.

Why is this so important? Veins carry deoxygenated blood back to the heart. In the legs, superficial veins located just below the skin surface collect blood. Deeper veins that run within the calf muscles then receive the blood. The calves’ muscular action helps pump the blood against the force of gravity towards the heart, and one-way valves inside the veins prevent the blood from travelling backwards. If this pumping action is compromised, the resultant lowering of efficiency can cause the pooling of blood in the leg and result in varicose veins.

You can consider several supplements when looking to help and maintain venous health.

Vitamin C plays a crucial role in collagen formation and is the building block of veins and blood vessels. One containing bioflavonoids would be a good choice, as these are known to enhance its efficacy. A healthy daily dose may even help restore those stubborn veins.

Various proteolytic enzymes have anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce inflammation associated with varicose veins. Enzymes, such as bromelain, papain, and trypsin, for example, are useful to help support blood vessel health.

Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, is known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, contributing to overall vein health. When taken together, amino acids like l-arginine and l-lysine boost nitric oxide production, improving blood circulation.

Conclusion

Varicose veins may be a common concern, but a holistic approach involving natural remedies can often contribute to prevention as well as relief. You can promote optimal vein health by adopting a healthy lifestyle, incorporating targeted supplements, and staying mindful of risk factors. Natural approaches are often gradual in their effects, so consistency and patience are key when adopting these strategies.

 

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