By Mary Ann Wilson, RN
How Veins Become Varicose
Arteries carry blood away from the heart, while veins carry the “used” blood back for oxygenation. The trip from your feet to your heart and lungs against the force of gravity is not an easy one. Veins achieve this task mainly with one-way valves that let the blood move up, but not down. These valves must hold tight, or the blood will flood lower compartments. If the leg muscles or the valves fail, then the veins become stretched and bloated.
Varicose veins are bluish, swollen, cord-like veins. Nobody wants to endure tenderness, soreness, swelling, and night cramps, but millions of Americans, mostly women, do. Women, obese persons, people who have to stand a lot, or those who have parents or grandparents with varicose veins are all at high-risk for varicose veins. In fact, so are all people as they age; as veins lose elasticity and supporting muscles lose strength, the risk of varicose veins increases.
Varicose veins occur when the veins are weak or when their tiny valves, which regulate blood flow to the heart, malfunction. The best approach to dealing with varicose veins is to keep them from worsening or, better yet, from forming in the first place.
Victory Over Varicose Veins: Managing and Preventing Varicose Veins
Don’t neglect the symptoms. If varicose veins are detected early enough, more serious symptoms and complications can often be avoided. Those telltale bluish, protruding blood vessels are not always visible before the condition has become serious. According to Howard C. Baron, MD, a specialist in the detection and treatment of varicose veins, the most common early symptom are tired, achy, or full feelings in the legs. These symptoms show up after a prolonged period of standing or sitting, and worsen as the day progresses. Here are some guidelines to help manage and prevent varicose veins.
1) Give your legs enough exercise. You can walk, jog, cycle, or swim. The point is to give your legs a regular workout. If you don’t have varicose veins yet, exercise helps to prevent them. If the problem exists, exercise can improve circulation and ease discomfort.
2) Going barefoot at home can help prevent varicose veins because it strengthens the foot muscles and improves circulation.
3) Eat plenty of fiber. The British clinician, Denis Burkitt, MD, has been making a strong case for a connection between a low-fiber diet and the onset of varicose veins. According to Dr. Burkitt, a diet low in fiber results in constipation that causes straining. This straining triggers a chain reaction that puts pressure on the leg veins, eventually weakening the valves. Switching to a high-fiber diet, including plenty of whole grains, bran, wheat germ, fresh fruits and salads, won’t make varicose veins disappear, but it can keep the condition from occurring or worsening.
4) Avoid sitting or standing for long periods; if you must do so, flex your leg muscles and wriggle your toes from time to time.
5) Avoid crossing your legs.
6) Avoid tight garments, including knee-high boots, panty hose that bind at the waist, girdles, and belts that fit too tightly.
7) Wear elastic stockings; they prevent swelling, act as a support for the veins, and encourage circulation.