Author: Texas Endovascular

Learn Your Risk for Leg Ulcers Now

Do you know your risk for leg ulcers? Lower-leg ulcers are a serious complication that can develop with untreated vein disease.  In order to protect yourself from ulcers, it’s important to understand the risk factors that increase your likelihood of developing this type of wound.

Risk factors for CVD

One of the main reasons people develop ulcers is because of CVD, chronic venous disease. And while we don’t always know why people develop CVD, some contributing factors include: Diagnostic Ultrasound Evaluation

  • Aging
  • Being a woman
  • Being pregnant
  • Family history
  • Obesity
  • On the job risks, like all day standing or sitting.

Any one of these factors can increase your risk of compromised blood flow, varicose veins, and, eventually, chronic venous disease. This, in turn, can increase your risk for leg ulcers. Which means you’re more likely to develop an ulcer on your lower legs.

Cholesterol, PAD and Risk for Leg Ulcers

When you have high cholesterol, it builds up in your arteries. Then, plaque can narrow your arteries’ lining (this condition is called atherosclerosis. The plaque is  made of cholesterol and other fatty substances called  triglycerides.)

Because plaque narrows your arteries, and because high cholesterol can trigger plaque buildup, high cholesterol levels increase your risk for peripheral arterial disease (PAD). When you have PAD, your narrowed arteries limit the amount of oxygen-rich blood that reaches your legs and feet. And that’s where your risk for legs ulcers also rises.

When  blood flow to your legs is restricted, sores may develop as blood pools and seeps through your skin. Then, the sores that develop are less likely to heal because of your reduced blood flow. That’s why you’ll need immediate medical attention if you develop an ulcer on your legs.

Warning Signs for Lower Leg Ulcers

Of course, it’s important to remember that not all people who have CVD will develop ulcers. With people who have CVD, you can watch for certain signs that may indicate an ulcer will soon form:

  • Skin changes: CVD patients with varicose veins, thickened skin or venous eczema (also known as varicose eczema, symptoms include itchy, flaky, dry, crusty and/or swollen skin) are more likely to develop an ulcer.
  • Edema: Studies show that edema is present in about 90% of patients with lower leg ulcers. Edema, or swelling, occurs when you form more lymph fluid than can be drained, or when your lymph material doesn’t flow well. This leads to a build-up of the fluid that results in swelling in your lower legs.

How to Prevent Venous Ulcers

Whether or not you’re displaying ulcer warning signs, you can take measures to prevent this devastating complication. These steps include:

  • Avoiding weight gain
  • Eating a balanced diet
  • Regularly moisturizing your skin
  • Avoid cigarettes or any kind of smoking
  • Moving every 30 minutes to avoid long periods of sitting or standing
  • Exercising regularly
  • Treating varicose veins

If you are concerned about developing ulcers, or already have an ulcer in need of attention, it is important to see your Houston area vein specialist right away. Any delay could pose a serious risk to your limbs, as well as your overall health.

 

Sources: NHS.uk, Nursing Times, Our Community Now

 

 

 

Check Out What Happens to Your PAD Risk as you Age

So many things affect your PAD risk. Now, did you know that approximately one in five people over the age of 65 has peripheral arterial disease (PAD)? If that seems to you like a pretty high percentage, you’re right. And there’s a reason for that: as you get older, your risk for PAD increases dramatically. Here’s why.

What is PAD?

PAD is a condition you develop when plaque builds up in your arteries. What is plaque? It’s a substance in your blood that’s made up of fat, cholesterol and other substances. When it sticks to the walls of your arteries, they ‘harden’—that’s called atherosclerosis, and atherosclerosis interferes with your blood’s ability to flow.

When it’s the blood flow to your legs that’s impacted by plaque, we call that condition PAD. And PAD can lead to leg pain and numbness. The hair on your legs may fall out; your skin color may change. You may find that cuts and scrapes take longer to heal; some wounds will no longer heal on their own when you have PAD.

But PAD symptoms aren’t just experienced in your legs. When you have PAD, your risk of heart attack, blood clots and stroke also increases. So does your chances of losing a limb to amputation.

Why Does PAD Develop? stages of PAD

While the exact cause of this condition isn’t know, it seems to begin when the inner layers of your arteries get damaged: this damage could be the result of diet that’s high in fat and cholesterol; a lifestyle that includes smoking; diabetes; and/or high blood pressure. It seems that plaque builds up as your arteries begin to heal.

Unfortunately, PAD can be hard to diagnose. That’s because many people with this condition don’t show any symptoms. Or, they experience symptoms like leg pain, numbness, and cramping, but confuse these problems for normal signs of aging, or for signs of other medical problems. That’s why it’s important to know all the PAD symptoms, which include: sores that don’t heal well, bluish skin color, skin that’s cold to the touch; problems with toenail growth; and, in men, erectile dysfunction.

Other Factors That Increase Risk

A study from the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health now shows that migraines are a PAD risk factor. While they aren’t sure why, it seems that migraine sufferers and PAD patients both have vascular abnormalities. For that reason, suffering from regular migraines could be considered an early PAD symptom. And, since PAD is often silent until damage is extensive, it’s worth scheduling a diagnostic ultrasound if migraines are a regular problem from you.

Interestingly, the study found additional PAD risk factors. It noted that age, smoking, diabetes and hypertension all increase your risk for PAD. But it also added chronic kidney disease and asthma to the list of conditions that increase your PAD risk. Which means that, if you have any of these conditions, it’s worth checking in with a PAD specialist.

How is PAD Diagnosed?

If your vein specialist suspects you have PAD, you may need one or more of the following tests:

  • An ankle-brachial index (ABI), which determines your blood flow by comparing the blood pressure in your ankle to the pressure in your arm.
  • A Doppler ultrasound, which can detect blood vessel blockages with sound waves
  • A treadmill test, to detect whether leg cramps are associated with activity, and whether they resolve with rest

You may also need additional blood tests to check for related conditions like diabetes or high cholesterol.

Treating PAD

If you are diagnosed with PAD early on, you may be able to control your symptoms with a series of lifestyle changes. At our Houston area vein clinics, we also help PAD patients by using minimally invasive procedures. Some of the treatment options we offer include Angioplasty, Stenting, and Atherectomy—the procedure we recommend for you will depend on the location of your blockages and the progression of your disease.

But want to know what they all have in common? These methods will almost always spare you from having major, open surgeries. Because of that fact, your recovery period will be drastically reduced. And you will likely be discharged from hospital on the same day of your procedure.

Before we come up with your treatment plan, however, we need to conduct diagnostic exams. And, in order to do that, we need to see you in the office. So, if you suspect PAD may be behind your leg cramps, or if you have any other PAD symptoms, schedule a consultation right away.

 

Sources: Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Clinical Interventions in Aging

5 Easy Ways to Improve Circulation

So many conditions can affect your blood’s ability to circulate through your body. Peripheral arterial disease (PAD), chronic venous disease (CVD) and even varicose veins can all make it harder for blood to flow into or out of certain areas of your body, especially your lower extremities. That’s the bad news, but here’s some good: there are things you can do to improve that circulation. And, in this post, we’ll share our three favorites. But first, let’s help you figure out if compromised circulation may be affecting your health.

Symptoms of Poor Circulation

No matter what condition impacts your circulation, you will likely experience: pain, tingling, numbness and muscle cramps. Any of these symptoms should send you to see your vein doctor, so you can be scanned for conditions that may be affecting your blood flow. Once the cause of your circulatory problems has been diagnosed, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following therapies to improve your blood flow.

Hot and Cold Therapy

Changes in temperature can improve blood circulation. When trying cold changes, we can apply ice packs, cold sprays or even an ice massage. Cooling the area with poor blood flow initially constricts blood vessels in the area; when they warm up and dilate gain, blood flow to the area improves. A direct application of hot packs or other warming devices dilates your blood vessels, improving blood flow in the same manner as the after-effects of cold therapy.

Compression Therapy to Improve Circulation

Compression stockings improve circulation by putting pressure on your leg. That pressure helps push blood from the bottom of your legs into the deep venous system. And that helps blood return to your heart, helping mitigate symptoms of poor circulation. Even more importantly, compression therapy can reduce or eliminate edema (swelling that occurs in your legs, ankles or feet) and can help reduce the risk of DVT (deep vein thrombosis, a potentially deadly condition that often develops without any warning signs.)

Improve Circulation as you Eat the Rainbow Improve circulation with flavanoid rich foods such as beets

Following a vein-health diet is a great, natural way to boost your blood flow. And a key part of that diet is colorful fruits and veggies. Why does color matter? The rainbow hues mean lots of flavonoids, which are a group of helpful nutrients that also give color to plants. When you eat a flavonoid such as anthocyanin, (found in deep red, blue and purple foods such as blueberries), the nutrients can help protect your blood vessel’s lining by strengthening their walls and fighting inflammation.

Now, as a group, flavonoids have another important job to do for your circulation. They can increase nitric oxide levels in your blood, which relaxes (dilates) your blood vessels. Once dilated, it’s easier for blood to circulate through your vessels. In addition to the berries, look for brightly colored choices such as purple cabbage, black plums and red beets to score the maximum benefits.

And that’s not all. New studies show that upping your daily flavanoid intake decreases your risk of PAD hospitalizations. But you don’t have to go crazy on your intake: the benefits max out at a certain level. Rather, to get the best PAD complication boost, aim for between 750mg and 1000mg per day. (Lots of foods contain flavanoids, but not all are created equal. Unsweetened baking cocoa has 206 mg for every 100 grams. One cup of blueberries, in contrast, has about 400mg of flavanoids. And for the real homerun, try a cup of green tea, which contains up to 1000 mg of flavanoids. In other words, your goal for the day!)

Spice Things Up

Certain supplements, such as ginkgo biloba and cayenne pepper, are known to stimulate circulation. How does this work? Both supplements relax (or dilate) your blood vessels. Which, as we’ve reviewed before, makes it easier for blood to flow freely through your body.

Exercise

When you exercise, your muscles become stronger. And when your muscles are stronger, they are better able to help pump blood back to your heart.  For this reason, any weight-bearing exercise that your doctor approves can help improve your circulation. Aerobic exercise also improves your circulation—walking is a great option because it is low impact. Exercising in the pool packs a double whammy, because your body is able to feel lighter and move longer when you are floating in the water.

How does exercise improve circulation at the level of your veins? It helps your valves pump blood up and out of your legs, moving back to your heart. Plus, exercise can help your body form new blood vessels. This is important if you already have varicose veins, since the new vessels can help take pressure off ones that aren’t working optimally.

And here’s a fun, pandemic friendly exercise tip for boosting circulation: try jumping on your trampoline! Yup, that’s right: bouncing isn’t just for kids. In fact, purchasing a mini-trampoline for indoor exercise is a very grown-up way to boost your vein health. That’s because, jumping (also called rebounding) on the trampoline can help reduce the pooling blood associated with varicose veins. It can also boost your circulation, and help you build stronger, healthier veins. Wondering how long you have to jump around? Here’s the good news : according to one rebounding study, you just need five minutes, three times a day, to boost your circulation.

Now, why is exercise so effective? As you move, you increase blood flow throughout your body. In other words, you force your blood to circulate!

Improving circulation will help manage the symptoms of decreased circulation, but if you want lasting relief, you will need to treat the underlying cause of your symptoms. So, if you have leg cramps, tingling or other symptoms of decreased blood flow, come see one of our Houston area vein specialists to discuss your treatment options.

 

Sources: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, BBC Good Foods, The Sports Daily, Bel Marra Health

Eat This, Not That: Your Healthy Vein Diet

Did you know that a healthy vein diet can improve your circulation? That’s important because your body’s circulatory system stretches over 60,000 miles long. And i veint plays an integral role in maintaining your overall health. Keeping it strong and nourished is vital for managing or avoiding venous diseases—including varicose veins—as well as for living a long and healthy life.

Thankfully, nourishing your veins is easier than you might think. A daily dose of moderate exercise combined with following these three diet tips will ensure that you and your veins are keeping your body’s circulatory system strong.

Your Guide to Healthy Veins

#1: Eat the Rainbow

What do rainbows have to do with your veins? Bioflavonoids, also known as Vitamin P, are the source of vibrant colors in certain fruits and vegetables. More significantly, Vitamin P also helps protect these fruits and veggies against microbes and insects. Studies have proven that a long-term diet rich in bioflavonoids not only improves the appearance of varicose veins, it also strengthens the walls of your blood vessels. And when those blood vessel walls are strong, veins are subject to much less of the stress that leads to and exacerbates venous diseases. When searching for foods high in bioflavonoids, look for brightly colored fruits and veggies like red bell peppers, oranges, strawberries, spinach, and peaches.

#2: Don’t Forget Fiber for a Healthy Vein Diet

You’re probably aware of the digestive benefits of a high-fiber diet. But did you know that fiber can also help strengthen your veins? Soluble fiber, the kind that can’t be digested, stays intact when passing through your intestine and prevents constipation. Frequent constipation puts a large amount of undue stress on your veins. Foods that are high in fiber include oats, buckwheat, peas, apples, and berries. If you have trouble incorporating these foods into your diet, mixing flavorless psyllium powder into your morning glass of tea or water works just as well. Keep in mind that drinking a sufficient amount of water is a necessary accompaniment to a high-fiber diet because it ensures that the fiber will be pushed through your system.

#3: Vitamin C is Key for Healthy Veins

Perhaps the most important dietary tip for healthy veins is to eat foods that are high in Vitamin C. This is because Vitamin C keeps veins toned and has been proven to help improve circulation. Luckily, many foods that are high in Vitamin P are also good sources of Vitamin C. These include fruits like oranges, oranges, tangerines, mangos, grapefruits and papayas. Vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, kale, and bell peppers are also rich in Vitamin C. When consumed together with vitamin E, Vitamin C’s effects on veins are said to be even more pronounced. For your daily dose of Vitamin E, reach for almonds, peanuts, or avocado.

#4 Consider Cocoa

Like brightly colored fruits and veggies, cocoa is rich in flavonols. In fact, cocoa flavanols, including epicatechin,  can help people with PAD walk more comfortably. More specifically, cocoa can help target therapy directly to your legs (limb perfusion) and improve cell and muscle regeneration in your legs. So grab a cup of hot cocoa, just make sure it’s cocoa powder with a concentration higher than 85%.

But Skip the Sugar for a Healthy Vein Diet

If you want to protect your vein health, watch your sugar consumption. That’s because processed sugar takes a toll on your blood vessels.

In fact, studies show that built up glucose can make your blood vessels contract more than they should. (It’s part of why diabetics have to worry about their blood flow.) Why does sugar in your blood constrict your vessels? Sugar inflames your nerves and blood vessels. That makes it harder for them to work well, so blood can pool, stretching out your veins and stopping them from closing properly. And those issues can translate to varicose veins, and aching, swollen legs and ankles.

When it comes to your veins, you are what you eat!

The key takeaway here is that preventing varicose veins starts with proper nutrition. The best foods for varicose veins are those rich in bioflavonoids, fiber and vitamins. So if you want healthier veins, replace junk food with a fresh and balanced diet rich in fiber and flavonoids. Add in some exercise (for inspiration, check out our Move it Monday series) and you’ll be on the path to stronger, healthier veins.

Sources: Journal of Circulation Research

Should I worry about my thread veins?

Are you worried about your thread veins? Here’s what you need to know. This is a very common vein condition. It develops when the small blood vessels that lie beneath your skin become dilated and visible. So you see small s

Also known as ‘telangiectasia’, thread veins come in several different colors. The smalls ones are red, but problems began if you don’t treat them early. As time goes on, they progress from purple to green. This means that they are getting larger ( or more dilated.)

Thread veins are more common in older adults, but anyone can get them. And while some people with this condition will also have varicose veins, not everyone will. Let’s explore more about this common vein condition.

Are Thread Veins a Sign of a Medical Condition?void bigger 

89% of women with small, visible veins developed this problem because varicose veins were dilating their vessels.  And 40% of those women also have such a severe varicose vein problem that they will likely develop other medical problems in the future.

Because these two vein concerns go hand-in-hand so often, anyone who has the former should be screened for the latter. In our Houston vein specialist office, we can screen you for varicose veins with a simple diagnostic ultrasound.

This type of screening will help determine whether your thread veins are a stand-alone problem or part of a larger issue.

Why Do Small Veins Become Visible?

Most often, genetics predisposes you to developing thread veins. If your mom and grandma had them, chances are, you will too.

Other times, thread veins develop at the sight of a bruise or injury. This is a less common cause.

Can you Prevent this Problem?

As mentioned, thread veins are often a genetic inheritance. But, since they are also tied to varicose veins, there are some measures you can take to help reduce the onset of these veins:

  1. Maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly: Inactivity and obesity have been linked to problems with varicose veins.
  1. Avoided extended periods of sitting: When you sit for a long time, you don’t use the muscles in your legs that are in charge of pumping blood back up to your heart. This can allow blood to fall back down your leg veins and pool, leading to swelling of the legs and bulging varicose veins.

Symptoms of Dilated Vessels

When your veins become visible through your skin, cosmetic symptoms aren’t your only worry. Many patients with vein problems end up with malfunctioning valves in their veins. That means your blood has a harder time flowing against gravity and up to your heart. As a result, blood can pool in your lower legs. And that pooling blood puts more pressure on your veins.

This pressure has two effects. First, it can make existing thread or spider veins more noticeable. But it also pushes other fluid out of your veins. And, when that fluid collects in your legs, they can swell (edema.) For that reason, if your legs or feet regularly appear swollen, it’s worth seeing your local vein specialist to see if your vein conditions need treatment.

Treating Vein Conditions in Houston

When it comes to getting rid of visible veins, over-the-counter creams don’t work. Sure, you can cover them up with makeup, but that’s clearly a temporary solution. If you really want to get rid of thread veins, you need to first clear up any underlying medical problems. Then, if you are still dealing with thread veins, you can treat them with microsclerotherapy, which involves injecting a highly diluted sclerosant solution into your veins with a teeny-tiny needle. This injection will permanently destroy your dilated blood vessels so they stop showing up beneath the skin.

If thread veins have been bothering you and you want to rule out a more serious medical issue, schedule an appointment with Dr. Fox or Dr. Hardee. We can screen you for other medical conditions and get you started on the treatment plan that’s best for your unique situation.

 

Sources:  Harvard Health, goodhousekeeping.com

3 Blood Clot Warning Signs & Symptoms

Recently on the blog, we spent some time explaining the science of blood clots: what they are, why they form and what they can do to your health. Today, we’re going to provide some more helpful information: this is how you can tell if you’re developing a blood clot!

How Can I tell if I have a Blood Clot?

The scary answer to this question is: you can’t always tell when you’re developing a blood clot. Sometimes, blood clots form without any obvious symptoms. But sometimes blood clots form and cause a range of other impacts on your body. Many of those symptoms will depend on the location of your blood clot.

As it turns out, women have a higher clotting risk. And one early warning sign may be tingling in your hands. That tingling could even cause temporary numbness. So if either symptom develops, you should see your vein specialist immediately.

If you have DVT (deep vein thrombosis, a clot in the deep veins of your legs) you may develop symptoms including redness at the site of your clot, warm skin, swelling, cramps and pain, without any obvious injury.

What is a Clot Break?

A clot break is a serious medical complication. This can happen when a DVT breaks loose from your legs and travels to your lungs (Pulmonary embolism).  A clot break could also travel from your heart to your brain, with vascular flow. And this is obviously a potentially fatal complications. With a clot break, you may experience symptoms such as shortness of breath (for no apparent reason), an unexplained cough, chest pain, an increased heart rate and fatigue. If the clot travels to your brain, the symptoms include loss of strength in your arms and legs, slurred speech and, sadly, sudden death.

If you’re at increased risk (you’ve just taken a long plane trip, you’re pregnant, or have compromised cardiovascular health) see your doctor for any of these symptoms. A blood clot can quickly become a medical emergency.

Do I Need Treatment?

In theory, your blood clot will self-resolve. That means, your body will naturally break it down and absorb the clot—eventually. But that process could take weeks or even months. And, depending on the location of your clot, waiting that long could pose a major threat to your health.

Why? Here’s the deal: if you have a clot in your artery, your cells won’t get the oxygen-rich blood they need to work. So they’ll stop functioning. If the clot cuts off oxygen to your brain cells, you’ll develop stroke symptoms. If the clot’s in your coronary artery (impacting your heart), you’ll start developing heart attack symptoms.

So, clearly, arterial clots are medical emergencies. But clots in your veins, like DVTS, are also serious. And that’s because they cause their own set of symptoms, but also because of their potential to break free and travel to your lungs.

In other words, while you could wait for your body to heal that clot, doing so could be a fatal mistake. Instead, let’s explore the best way to medically treat your blood clot.

 

How Will You Treat My Clot?

Even if it means a trip to the emergency room, see a doctor at the first sign of a clot. If you do have a clot, you’ll need one of two treatments: medication or interventions involving medical devices.

Oral or intravenous (IV) blood thinners can help manage a blood clot. Alternatively, your doctor may insert a wire or catheter to try and open up your blood vessels. Finally, in certain situations, your healthcare provider may surgically remove the blood clot (thromectomy.)

The good news is: blood clot treatments are fairly effective, especially if they are administered quickly.  But in order to benefit from these treatments, you must be seen before the clot grows or causes additional damage like a heart attack or stroke. For that reason, we can’t emphasize this enough: seek medical attention from your Houston vein specialists at the first sign of a suspected blood clot!

Sources: Us News & World Report, KRPC 2 News Houston

CVI, Chronic Venous Insufficiency: What You Need to Know

CVI, or chronic venous insufficiency, is a condition in which the valves in your veins don’t work properly. This makes it difficult for the veins in your legs to carry blood back to your heart.

Deep Vein Thrombosis
Tired, achy legs are actually a symptom of cvi, chronic vein insufficiency!

CVI is actually quite a common condition, affecting up to 40% of people in the U.S. Because it is a chronic problem, it can lead to other side effects like, swelling of the legs and feet pain in your legs and spider veins.

Symptoms of CVI

Some symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency include:

  • Heavy legs
  • Throbbing or dull aches in the legs
  • Swollen legs and ankles
  • Itchy, cramped legs
  • Changes in skin color—especially dark patches
  • Thickened ankle skin
  • Ulcers
  • Spider veins
  • Blood clots

What Causes Chronic Venous Insufficiency?

Certain factors may increase your risk of developing CVI:

  • A family history of the condition
  • Past blood clots
  • Varicose veins
  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Long periods of sitting or standing

Treating CVI in Houston

Depending on the severity of your condition, and your individual health profile, your treatment for CVI will differ. Only your vein specialist can determine the right course of treatment. There are, however, several common courses of treatment that we should review:

Medications

Some medications may help you manage CVI symptoms by working to improve the flow of blood within your vessels. These include:

  • Duretics, because they remove excess fluid from your body, reducing the volume that has to flow through your vesses.
  • Anti-inflammatories like pentoxifylline
  • Anti-coagulants or blood thinners, which prevent blood clots and keep your blood in a condition for optimal flow.

Preventing Vein Insufficiency

If you’re beginning to notice symptoms of CVI, the first thing you should do is talk to your doctor and schedule a diagnostic vein scan. After that, try some of these steps:

  • Wear compression stockings. These special elastic socks or tights apply pressure to your lower leg and foot, reducing any swelling you may be experiencing and improving blood flow to the area.
  • Put your feet up. By elevating your feet to a level above your heart, you can help your body move the blood out of your legs and back to where it belongs.
  • Protect your skin. People with CVI are more prone to skin infections like dermatitis or cellulitis. To protect yourself against these conditions, you should regularly moisturize your skin to prevent dryness and flaking. Make sure to exfoliate your skin regularly to get rid of dead cells and follow your vein specialists instructions regarding any prescription ointments you may need to incorporate into your skin care routine.

Worried about CVI and hoping to prevent complications? We’re here to help. Schedule a consultation with our Houston vein specialists, so we can give you a treatment plan to manage CVI.

Sources: Johns Hopkins Medicine

How Cocoa, Vitamin K and Water Can Help PAD

Looking for help for PAD? Well, guess what? Researchers have discovered that drinking hot cocoa could help improve your gait if you have peripheral arterial disease (PAD.) And that’s not all: science also suggests that Vitamin K2 can lower your risk for developing PAD, or other types of coronary disease. Plus, water-based exercises can help restore your mobility. Often as effectively as gym-based workouts, which could be painful when you’re dealing with this health concern.

You see, PAD is a serious condition that sets in when athelosclerosis (hardened arteries) limit blood flow to your lower limbs. And one of the worst PAD symptoms is sudden pain with walking, so we’re excited about preventing PAD, but we’re also excited about this tasty discovery regarding symptom relief! Let’s take a closer look.

Flavanols Offer Help for PAD

First things first: let’s clear up our cocoa discussion. Cocoa is rich in flavonols, which is why it can help PAD patients. But not all cocoa is created equally. As study author Mary McGrae McDermott explains, “A large amount of chocolate available without a prescription is alkalized, which improves taste [but destroys] the beneficial cocoa flavanols that have therapeutic effects.”

What does that mean? You need powder with more than 85% cocoa content to get health benefits. Simply grabbing some Nesquick at the super market just won’t cut it—even though your cocoa will probably taste pretty great.

Still, the right kind of cocoa has lots of healing properties. According to the study, cocoa flavanols, including epicatechin, “have therapeutic properties that can improve performance when walking in people with PAD.” More specifically, cocoa can help target therapy directly to your legs (limb perfusion) and improve cell and muscle regeneration in your legs. Finally, McDermott notes, previous studies have also discovered that blood flow and muscle health improve with cocoa consumption.

Now we know why cocoa is such a valuable ingredient, let’s take a closer look at how you can leverage cocoa to improve your PAD symptoms.

How Cocoa Fights PAD

The purpose of this study was to see if cocoa could help PAD patients walk longer distances before experiencing leg pain. And, happily, it did! To reach their findings, McDermott’s team studied 44 patients aged 60 and older. Every day, participants drank either cocoa or a placebo drink. By the end of the study period, cocoa drinkers found it much easier to walk for six minutes, as compared to their placebo-drinking counterparts. People who drank three cups a day saw the best results.

In presenting her findings, McDermott explained, “Our study showed better health in the blood flow to the legs, improvements in the 6-minute walking distance and also improved the health of the calf skeletal muscle. Since people with PAD have difficulty walking due to blood flow problems, we think that this particular therapy can be particularly beneficial.”

While these findings are certainly exciting—for our taste buds and our symptom management—don’t start planning to ditch your meds. As mentioned, you’d have to have the exact cocoa makeup included in the study. Plus, while cocoa can help with symptom relief, it’s unlikely to clear up your underlying disease trigger. So, by all means, talk to your doctor about including cocoa in your diet. And take a look at the findings about Vitamin K1 and PAD!

Vitamins and PAD Risk

According to long-term studies in Atherosclerosis, daily vitamin K2can reduce your PAD risk if you have hypertension or diabetes.

After following over 36,000 men and women for just over 12 years, researchers 489 participants developed PAD. But they found that taking vitamin K2 reduced that PAD risk. All the people benefited from the supplement. But the risk reduction was strongest for those with hypertension, and strongest for those with diabetes.

Based on their discovery, the study authors can recommend daily vitamin k2 supplements. Great sources of vitamin k2 include dairy products, fermented foods like kombucha, kimchi and sauerkraut, and some animal products.

Of course, if you already have peripheral arterial disease, you may notice symptoms such as leg cramps while you walk. In which case, you’ll want to read more about water based workouts that offer help for PAD.

Fighting PAD Symptoms in the Water

According to researchers at Sheffield Hallam University, water based exercises can be an effective part of a PAD rehab program. Plus, these workouts could offer protective cardiovascular health benefits. Because, according to lead author Markos Klonizakis, getting four water workouts a week offered the same protective heart and arterial benefits as four weekly workouts in the gym.

Now, this news is especially important for older adults. Because water workouts are lower impact. Which means they’re easier to do, even if you already deal with joint or PAD pain.

Of course, all of these dietary and lifestyle changes can offer help for PAD. But that doesn’t mean you should give up on any of your other PAD medications. And if you’re worried about your risk, be sure to explore PAD treatment options with your Houston area vein specialists. If you come in to see us, real relief could be available, and sooner than you think.

Sources: Atherosclerosis, Journal of Circulation Research, Nutraingredients.com, British Medical Journal 

Can Diet and Exercise Help My Swollen Legs?

Swollen legs aren’t just uncomfortable. They could be a sign of a serious condition called venous insufficiency. (Also called VI, this is a condition in which your veins fail to circulate blood properly, especially to your lower extremities). As a result, you may develop troubling symptoms. One common side effect of VI is edema (swelling) in your the lower legs. And when you experience edema for an extended period of time, you are more susceptible to venous ulcers, open wounds that develop on your legs as a result of increased vein pressure due to your malfunctioning venous valves.

While ulcers can be frightening, there are several ways in which we can treat these sores. First and foremost, it’s important to address the underlying cause of the problem–your venous insufficiency and edema.

To help control edema, we recommend that patients wear compression stockings; the pressure will help encourage pooling blood to flow out of your legs and back up to your heart, reducing the swelling you experience in your legs. Elevating your legs can help as well: if you put your feet up above the level of your heart, it will also encourage pooling blood to leave your legs.

But there’s two more ways we can control edema and VI, reducing your risk of venous ulcers: diet and exercise!

Dietary Changes to Prevent Swollen Legs

If you’ve noticed swelling in your legs, it’s a great time to start changing your diet! First and foremost, cut back on your salt intake. Too much sodium in your diet can lead to water retention, making your edema symptoms worsen. Keep in mind that lots of canned soups, snacks, cheeses and even pickles are high in sodium, so it’s not enough to just bypass the salt shaker.

Next up on the dietary schedule? Drink more water. While it may seem strange, increasing your fluid intake can actually help flush retained fluid from your body. So, if edema is a problem for you, grab an 8-ounce water glass and start sipping!

Not a fan of H20? While water is best, other liquids may help you fight fluid retention. Some people find benefits from sipping dandelion tea. But since this fluid can interact with your medications, you should never drink this brew without your doctor’s approval. A safer choice? Try drinking lemon water! This will add a bit of pep to your regular water. And, as an added bonus, the lemon may help flush toxins–and excess fluid–out of your body! Finally, cranberry juice can also be a helpful beverage. Packed with magnesium, potassium and calcium, cranberry juice may help maintain proper fluid balance in your body. (Plus, it could help prevent urinary tract infections!)

Now, other nutrients may also help avoid water retention, but if your edema is related to vein disease, you should discuss serious dietary changes with your vein specialist. And you should also take a look at your exercise routine!

Exercise as a Form of Ulcer Prevention

As long as your doctor has cleared you for physical activity, certain forms of exercise can help manage VI, edema and ulcers. Exercises that are particularly effective include:

Walk your way to a lower risk of vein disease!
  • Ankle flexions (point your toes forward, away from the body, then flex them, pulling the toes toward your shin). The exercise is even more effective if performed while standing, or with the addition of a resistance band will further enhance the effects.
  • Brisk walking intervals, scattered throughout the day, will strengthen your calf muscle, helping it contract and push blood out of your lower legs.
  • Treadmill walking, especially at an incline, if this is possible for you, will further strengthen your calf muscles. If you aren’t up to treadmill walking, you can get similar benefits from rocking in a rocking chair, pushing off the ground with your feet to rock.

Of course, the best way to prevent ulcers is to maintain ideal vein health. If you start to notice any signs of VI or edema, come in and schedule a diagnostic vein scan. That way, we can stay on top of your vein health before more serious problems set in.

 

Sources: thehealthsite.com, healthline.com 

Here’s What you Need to Know about Blood Clots

In our Houston vein practice, we know how serious a threat blood clots pose to your health. When we treat patients with Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), a condition in which blood clots form in the deep veins of your legs, we face a medical emergency. That’s because, if a blood clot breaks free and travels to other parts of your body—especially to your lungs—it can threaten your life.

But, many people want to know: why do I get blood clots? And, what are they exactly? Is there anything I can do to prevent them? So, in this post, we will try to answer all of those questions. Just keep reading to learn more.

Why do blood clots form? stages of PAD

When things are working properly, your blood flows freely through your body, delivering oxygen to your organs and flushing out the waste products created by your body’s metabolic processes. But, if you get a cut, scrape or injury, blood in your arteries and veins (veins return blood from the body to the heart; arteries transport blood away from your heart) will clot to block your blood vessels and stop you from bleeding out.

But, when your arteries or veins get blocked when you aren’t injured, you need medical intervention. Otherwise, you can face complications such as strokes, heart attacks, organ damage and even limb loss. In certain occasions, as we mentioned earlier, blood clots can kill you by travelling to your lungs (pulmonary embolism), interfering with your ability to breathe.

Blood clots form in blood vessels—either your deep veins or your arteries. Typically, they form after your blood vessels get damaged, triggering a reaction in your body. This reaction involves a mix of platelets and clotting factor proteins.

How Do Blood Clots Cause Health Problems?

As we mentioned, problematic blood clots form when the connection between platelets and clotting factor proteins goes awry. Platelets are objects in your blood that group together and stick to the walls of your blood vessels when needed.

Clotting factors are proteins in the blood that trigger a reaction to makes platelets and red blood cells stick together. Typically, other proteins in your body make that reaction stop, so your clot only reaches the size needed to prevent excess bleeding.  But when damage to your blood vessels impacts that reaction, clots may grow unchecked, leaving you at risk for clotting conditions like DVT.

Arterial clots and DVT

We can’t always predict who will be affected by blood clots, or when those clots will form. But we do know certain factors that can increase your risk for clots:

·         Prolonged immobility, as with long airplane flights

·         Arm or leg surgery

·         Casting a broken bone

·         Trauma

·         Smoking

·         Being pregnant

·         Diabetes

·         Obesity

·         High blood pressure

·         High cholesterol

·         Age

·         A family history of peripheral artery disease (PAD), stroke or heart disease or stroke.

Remember, PAD develops when you have atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis, a type of arteriosclerosis, is a condition where plaque builds up in your arteries. It specifically means that plaque built up on the inner most wall of your artery. Once that happens, your arteries narrow and ‘harden.’ In turn, this reduces blood flow to certain parts of your body. And it also increases your risk of blood getting ‘stuck,’ and forming clots.

New research has revealed an additional risk factor for blood clots, and it’s one that you unfortunately can’t control. In fact, your blood type can contribute to that risk, according to a study published in the Journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. 

The research, which began in 2017, found that people with types A or B blood had a combined 8% higher risk of heart attack, and a 10% increased risk of heart failure, as compared to people with type O blood. So, knowing your blood type could help you understand your risk for developing a blood clot.

 

Diagnosing and Treating Blood Clots

The best way to treat blood clots is to prevent their formation. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, staying mobile even on long trips, and using compression therapy can all help protect you from DVT. Even if you develop a DVT, compression therapy—especially within 24 hours of the clot’s formation—can help manage your risk of further complications.

So, as with many other vein and arterial conditions, timeliness is key when it comes to treating blood clots. The sooner you see a vein specialist, the better the outcome you will likely enjoy. So if you have any symptoms of or risks for blood clots, schedule an appointment with your Houston vein specialists today!

 

Sources: Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology JournalAmerican Heart Association

 

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