There’s nothing you can do about some risk factors for varicose veins. Three unchangeable factors — being over 40, female, and having a family history of varicose veins — significantly raise your risk.
But varicose veins aren’t inevitable. You can still prevent these twisted, bulging veins by learning about and changing the lifestyle habits that contribute to them.
Our team at Woodland Heart and Vascular Institute specializes in the prevention and treatment of varicose veins. We’re available to help whether you want a risk assessment and prevention tips or need advanced treatment that eliminates the veins and gives your body the chance to restore normal circulation.
Here are five habits that raise your risk for varicose veins:
1. Standing or sitting for an extended time
Standing still or sitting for a long time puts excessive pressure on your leg veins. Lack of movement also makes it hard for blood in the veins to travel up your legs.
Circulation in your leg veins depends on muscle movement. As you walk, your leg muscles contract and compress the veins, creating a pumping action that forces blood to flow upward against gravity.
Increased pressure (pushing blood down the vein) combined with the loss of muscle action leads to blood pooling in the veins. As a result, the valves that normally keep blood moving in one direction weaken and your risk of developing varicose veins significantly increases.
If your job requires you to stand or sit for long periods, wearing compression stockings can help promote circulation. If you can, take frequent, short breaks and walk around. Raising your legs while sitting helps. Even slight leg movement while sitting or standing improves circulation and temporarily relieves the venous pressure.
2. Living a sedentary lifestyle
Not getting enough exercise causes several problems that raise your risk for varicose veins. One of the most important is this: A sedentary lifestyle makes it easier to gain weight and harder to lose the pounds (if you’re already overweight).
Carrying extra weight is a top risk factor for varicose veins because the weight puts pressure on your leg veins. If you carry the weight in your belly, it pushes against your lower pelvic area, working against blood flow coming up through your legs toward your heart.
In addition to helping you maintain a healthy weight, getting regular exercise works your leg muscles. This activity has the immediate impact of pushing blood up your legs. It also provides the long-term benefit of stronger muscles.
3. Smoking or using tobacco products
The chemicals in tobacco products have a devastating impact on your blood vessels. They damage vein walls, reduce elasticity, and thicken your blood. Any amount of smoking, even exposure to secondhand smoke, increases your risk of impaired venous circulation and varicose veins.
4. Wearing high-heel shoes
Wearing high heels changes the basic body mechanics that ensure blood flows up your legs. When you walk, the action between your feet and calf muscles coordinate to propel blood upward.
High heels change your natural movement, shifting your weight to the front of your feet and toes. This keeps the calf muscles contracted and limits their ability to pump blood.
Occasionally wearing high heels limits your risk and won’t single-handedly cause varicose veins. But choosing high heels on a daily basis may cause long-term vein problems. You can help prevent varicose veins by sticking with everyday footwear that has low heels.
5. Wearing tight clothes
Clothes that are tight around your waist, upper thighs, or legs restrict blood flow and add to the venous pressure in your legs. Tight clothes alone may not cause varicose veins, but they magnify your chances if you have other risk factors. Wearing tight clothes also makes existing varicose veins worse.
If you need help preventing or treating varicose veins, call our office in The Woodlands, Texas, or request an appointment online today.