Do the Legwork to Prevent and Treat Varicose Veins

Proactive Health

By Joy Stephenson-Laws JD, Founder

As we approach summer, we are starting to wear more shorts and swimsuits. If you look closely at your legs, you may notice some visible veins that perhaps were not there last summer. They may be varicose veins and are very common. According to Cleveland Clinic, almost 50% of women between ages 40 and 50 have some form of varicose veins, and varicose veins are 4 times more common in women than men.

What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are swollen, twisted and enlarged veins you can see under the skin. These veins are overfilled with blood and usually have a bluish-purple or red color. You may have heard people say they have “spider veins,” which is essentially a milder case of varicose veins. They normally occur in the legs.

Why the legs?

The veins in your legs are the ones farthest from your heart, and because of that these veins are at a higher risk of getting what I like to call plumbing issues. Varicose veins happen when the veins are not working properly. Veins have one-way valves in order to prevent blood from flowing backward. When these valves malfunction, the blood cannot continue to flow toward the heart.

What causes varicose veins?

Some causes include:

  • Age. As you get older, veins may lose elasticity and weaken.
  • Pregnancy. When a woman is pregnant, she has a higher volume of blood in her body, but less blood flows from the legs to the pelvis. This supports a growing fetus but may cause varicose veins. The good news is these cases of varicose veins usually disappear 3-12 months after delivering the baby. Pop music icon Britney Spears reportedly developed varicose veins at a young age during her two pregnancies.
  • Obesity. Extra weight may put more pressure on the veins.
  • Standing or sitting for long periods of time. This may cause the blood to not flow as well.

Varicose veins are usually harmless and considered a cosmetic concern, but more severe cases may cause ulcers or sores on the legs, blood clots (which may cause heart attack or stroke), chronic inflammation and sometimes vein rupture.

Varicose veins can also cause deep vein thrombosis, when a blood clot forms inside the vein. The clot can block blood flow to the heart and lungs, which may cause a heart attack or pulmonary embolism (block of major artery in the lung).

Several reports say superstar tennis player Serena Williams suffered from varicose veins, which may have caused her to have deep vein thrombosis and a pulmonary embolism back in 2011. However, some reports say the cause was due to an injury from playing tennis and having to wait through a long surgical recovery. Maybe it was a combination of all of these things. She reportedly developed several multiple clots at the time that traveled to her lungs. She was only 29 at the time.  

How can we be proactive about varicose veins?

  • Wear compression stockings to reduce swelling.
  • Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time. Moving is key!
  • Raise your legs above your heart 3 to 4 times a day for 15 minutes each time.
  • If you are overweight, lose weight.
  • Exercise. This can help move blood flow up your legs.
  • Watch your sodium intake. Too much sodium may cause swelling and stress in the legs.

Determine whether you have optimal levels of critical nutrients such as minerals in your body.  Diet may also be a great way to prevent varicose veins. If you can prevent inflammation, this may help prevent or better manage varicose veins. Examples of some anti-inflammatory minerals include the following:

  • Magnesium. This mineral has great antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Dietary sources of magnesium include leafy green vegetables (like spinach), legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Foods with fiber are also good sources of magnesium. Many cereals are also fortified with magnesium.
  • Calcium is another anti-inflammatory mineral and is needed in many vital body processes like muscle contraction, bone metabolism, blood clotting, hormone release and more. Foods with calcium include yogurt, milk, cheese, salmon, sardines, turnip greens, kale and broccoli.
  • Selenium. Most of what selenium does or changes in the body is through the action of selenoproteins. These are just what they sound like; proteins that have some selenium in them. Selenium hops into amino acids, creating a special kind of amino acid that attracts oxidation-reduction (free-radical-removing) reactions readily. This makes a great antioxidant, because free radicals cause aging and damage to the body, which can contribute to the development of varicose veins. Brazil nuts, oysters, meats and whole grains contain selenium.
  • Zinc. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, zinc may help in the prevention and management of varicose veins. A compelling amount of evidence suggests that zinc may help to block the bad effects of obesity (which can cause varicose veins) in the body. Zinc has anti-inflammatory properties. Oysters are the highest source of zinc. You can also get zinc in your diet from red meat, poultry, crab, fish, shrimp, lobster, oatmeal, whole grains, cheeses, yogurt, beans and nuts.
  • Copper. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), copper helps make more endothelial cells, which are protective cells that line the inside of blood vessels. This may help maintain the elasticity of veins and, therefore, help prevent varicose veins. Dietary sources of copper include organ meats, shellfish, nuts, seeds, wheat-bran cereals and whole-grain products.

To learn more about the critical minerals that can help with inflammation and varicose veins, read Minerals - The Forgotten Nutrient: Your Secret Weapon for Getting and Staying Healthy.  

How can we treat varicose veins if we already have them?

There are several types of surgeries, most of them non-invasive and with a quick recovery time, to treat varicose veins. For a list of the different types of surgeries, click here.

Enjoy your healthy life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, health care attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. To learn more about the pH Health Care Team, click here.   

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