Author: Texas Endovascular

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
  • Having thick blood (hypercoagulability.) Often, you only discover your blood is thick after developing a clood clot. But in some cases, hypercoagulability causes chest pain, dizziness, slurred speech and shortness of breath. Usually, this condition is a symptom of other diseases, including vascular diseases suches as polycythemia.
  •  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.

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

 

Your Cankles Could Be Hiding Lymphedema!

Lymphedema is a serious health problem. But many people don’t know that. Instead, they might think they just have cankles. Now, for those of you who aren’t aware, cankles is a term used to describe wide or swollen ankles–the swelling eliminates a distinction between your calves and ankles (hence the name.) Keep in mind, “cankles” is a slang — it isn’t a term you’ll hear doctors using. But it could be describing several medical conditions, so it’s worth paying attention to your cankles.

Of course, sometimes, cankles could just be a sign that your calf muscles aren’t well-defined. It may even be the result of extra fat tissue in the are. But often, cankles develop because you have fluid build up in your lower leg.

Sometimes, people will also complain about elephant legs. This is another sign of lymphedema, but it just means the swelling extends beyond your ankle. (It’s also a sign that you’ve entered the last, and most dangerous, stage of lymphedema.) While many women, and some men, complain about the way their cankles or legs look, it turns out that they could both be a sign of more serious health issues.

What Causes My Ankles to Swell?

Many pregnant women develop swollen ankles. Usually, this cankle cause clears up once you deliver your baby, so you may not need to seek treatment. Individuals with liver or kidney disease may also develop ankle swelling. So, if you have a family history of either disease, mention your swollen ankles right away to your doctor.

Additionally, cankles could be a sign of excess fat in your ankles, and not of swelling. If you are a woman and you’re seeing excess ankle fat, you might have lipedema. This hormonal condition, affecting up to 11% of women, causes extra fat to build up beneath the skin on your legs. It can be painful and serious, and you should review your symptoms with your doctor.

You should discuss the possibility of any of these conditions with your doctor. But, today, we’re going to talk about circulation and cankles. Because swollen, puffy ankles are symptoms of several potentially serious vein conditions. For that reason, you should see your doctor at the first signs of lymphedema. That’s the only way to prevent serious complications.

Venous disease/insufficiency

When your veins struggle to send blood back from your extremities to your heart, it’s known as venous insufficiency. In this condition, the blood that doesn’t flow properly can pool in your leg veins. Varicose veins or deep vein thrombosis (DVT, a blood clot that forms in the deep veins of your legs) are also warning signs of Venous Insufficiency.

Symptoms of VI include:

  • Swelling of the legs or ankles
  • Painful,  heavy legs
  • Thicker skin on the legs and ankles
  • Color changes in the skin around your ankles

Edema

Swelling in the legs (edema) can occur when fluid becomes trapped in the soft tissues of the leg, typically because of malfunctioning valves in your veins. When the valves in your leg veins begin to weaken, or fail, the blood can no longer be pumped out of the legs properly. This causes fluid and blood to become trapped there and, as the fluid begins to build up, the leg may begin to swell. The term for the buildup of fluid which leads to swelling in the body is edema.

Lymphedema vs Lipedema

Lymphedema is a form of chronic edema that occurs when the body’s lymphatic system does not function properly. It is not the same as edema caused by vein disease, although vein disease can eventually progress into a combined venous/lymphatic disorder. As with swelling in the lower legs, lymphedema requires the attention of a healthcare professional as soon as possible.

Other signs of lymphedema include progressive symptoms. In the later stages of disease, you may also not some “pillow” swelling in your foot. If it’s caused by Lymphedema, it won’t go away after sleeping. Another sign is called Stemmer’s symptom. This is when you can’t fold the skin on the back of your second toe. Also, your skin will likely appear pale. And the swelling will reach the middle of your lower leg, but won’t hit your thigh. (This is when we start to hear about model heather has lipedemaelephant legs.) Finally, you may develop fibrosis, when the skin on your leg becomes thicker and hardens.

Now, lipedema is a different condition that also may increase your ankle size, but this is due to fat buildup, not fluid retention. Plus, if lipedema is your concern, you’ll likely have fat deposits in areas other than your ankles. In fact, lipedema usually strikes your calves, thighs and buttocks. And, unlike lymphedema, this condition typically impacts women, not men.

Recognizing Lipedema

With this condition, excess fat builds up on the lower half of your body, but there’s no obvious cause for this build-up. While many women with lipedema are overweight, obesity doesn’t seem to cause this fat build up. Instead, the condition seems linked to hormones, since most women develop symptoms at times of major hormonal shifts. (Think puberty, pregnancy and/or menopause.)

Now, it’s difficult to treat lipidemia. So many women, including body positivity role model Heather Johnson, choose to embrace their larger lower bodies. Still, lipidema can cause pain, and the build-up of lymphatic fluid. (That condition is called secondary lymphedema.) And if that happens, treatment may be necessary.

How and When to Treat Your Cankles swollen, painful legs and ankles could be lymphedemaolding knee

While some forms of cankles are just the result of fatty buildups in your bodies, when they are a sign of a vein problem, treating the underlying issue may also improve the look of your lower legs. When it comes to purely cosmetic treatments, that is a personal choice, but when treating your cankles could actually save your veins from further damage, it is always a good idea!

Noticed swelling in your ankles? Don’t wait to see if it goes away on it’s own, or your symptoms may progress! Instead, schedule an appointment with your Houston vein specialists right away. We can diagnose the cause of your cankles. And get you on the path to proper healing.

 

Sources: Lymphatic Network

 

There are Stages of Vein Disease: Don’t Delay Treatment!

Did you know that there are stages of vein disease? That’s right, this is a progressive condition. That’s really important information. Especially if you’ve been delaying treating your spider veins.  Do you hate how they look, but aren’t sure if there’s a good medical reason to get rid of them? If so, you NEED to read this blog post.

Why? Because, if left untreated, the vein problems you’re already experiencing will get worse. And they can lead to further medical complications. In fact, by the end of this post, we’re guessing you’ll be ready to talk vein treatment. But first, let’s review three clear signs that pushing off your vein treatment is no longer an option.

Stages of Vein Disease

Vein disease gets worse if left alone. So you should seek treatment in the early stages of vein disease. And, to help you do that, here are the different stops along the way to serious vein disease.

STAGE 1: You’ll notice small red or blue veins under your skin. They may look like tree branches, and will be one millimeter or less in diameter. But, while they’re small, they still mean your leg veins have leaky valves.

STAGE 2: Here come the varicose veins. They are larger, blue twisted veins that bulge under the surface of your skin. at this stage, you may also develop symptoms. These include heaviness, itching, pain, inflammation, or even a ruptured vein, which can lead to bleeding events.

STAGE 3: Edema and lympheda become problems. Your legs and ankles swell from pooling blood in your lower leg. Your skin may feel tight. And it could take on a leathery appearance.

STAGE 4: Your skin changes colors. Usually, you’ll notice rust colored skin, especially around your calves and ankles. Again, this change comes from pooling blood in your lower legs.

STAGE 5: You may develop wounds (leg ulcers). While they may form scars, they’ll be difficult to heal.

STAGE 6: Your ulcers could bleed (Venous stasis ulcers). They could also leak pus or fluid. They may give off bad odors. And they’ll leave skin feeling tender or even burning.  These ulcers also increase yoru risk for skin infections or even amputations in extreme situations.

This is When to Seek Varicose Vein Treatment cellulitis on leg

As we mentioned, there are stages of vein disease. And, as with all progressive conditions, early treatment is best. So here are the clear signs it’s time to seek vein treatment.

  1. You notice dilated leg veins: Dark, vivid veins are unsightly. But visibly dilated veins expand in size, and that’s a clear sign to seek treatment.
  2. Your legs are tired and heavy: If your legs are heavy or numb or just-plain tired, varicose veins are impacting your quality of life.
  3. You develop phlebitis: Phlebitis causes inflammation in specific venous areas. The surrounding skin gets red and hot to the touch. You may also notice lumps beneath your skin. (And they’ll be painful!) You’ll usually notice this problem in your lower legs. But small surface veins in your arms, breasts or penis can also be impacted. There are two types of phlebitis: one that impacts surface veins, and one that hits your deeper veins. Superficial phlebitis isn’t a major medical concern, but phlebitis in your deeper veins (also called DVT, or deep vein thrombosis) is a medical emergency. In fact, it could be fatal if not treated quickly.
  4. And this condition is a clear sign to seek immediate treatment for your varicose veins.

Now we know how to spot the crucial moment to seek vein treatment, let’s look at what happens if you don’t.

If you ignore varicose veins in the early stages of vein disease, they won’t stay the way they are. And they certainly won’t get better! Instead, these bulging veins will get larger and more dangerous. (See the six stages of vein disease above.)

So…that’s the bad news. But here’s the good: we can stop this progression in its tracks with proper vein treatments.

And the earlier you seek treatment, the greater the variety of treatment options you’ll be offered ( all of which we’ll review in 3…2…1…

Top Treatment Options for Varicose Veins man holding knee

Depending on your disease progression, you may be eligible for one or more of the following treatments:

  1. Cosmetic sclerotherapy. If you aren’t having symptoms, or your veins are near the surface, this is a great choice. Treatment addresses unsightly veins that don’t show serious disease symptoms. It’s fast, minimally invasive and requires no sedation or anesthesia.
  2. Ultrasound-guided Sclerotherapy. This outpatient procedure is the best way to treat spider leg veins. We inject solution into your affected vein. Next, it shrinks and closes so blood flows through healthier veins, instead. Once the vein closes, it disappear from view over time. And the procedure takes just 15 minutes.  Afterwards, you wear compression stockings for a week. But you can get back to normal activities right away, making sure to walk for at least 30 minutes each day.

Ablation Treatment for Vein Disease

Another option our Houston vein specialists offer is radiofrequency vein ablation (RFA), typically used to treat varicose veins and other problems caused by venous insufficiency or reflux.

RFA is a minimally invasive procedure in which a catheter is inserted into an abnormal vein, heating the vein to close it permanently. Radiofrequency ablation requires only a local anesthetic, causes little or no pain, and leaves virtually no scar. The outpatient procedure takes less than an hour to perform and patients can resume normal activities immediately afterwards.

Finally there is ambulatory phlebectomy—a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to remove bulging varicose veins located just below the skin.

Phlebectomy is performed under local anesthesia. Several small incisions are made to extract your bulging varicose vein. Since we make small incisions, you won’t need stitches and scarring is minimal or even non-existent. We call this procedure “ambulatory” because you can walk immediately after we get done!

Before recommending any of our vein treatments, our vein specialists will perform a thorough exam and discuss all your available options. Together, we’ll decide on the best way to stop your progressive vein disease in its tracks! So make your appointment today!

Sources: Cleveland Clinic 

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. We also call this condition venous eczema. Stasis or gravitational eczema also refer to the same condition. When you have stasis eczema, your skin may also change color. It could tighten or harden, a condition we call lipodermatosclerosis. Also, you may develop atrophie blanche, which leaves small white scars on your skin. And eczema may spread to other areas of your body. Steroid creams may relieve your symptoms, and compression stockings can help. But treating your circulatory issues will offer the best and lasting relief.
  • 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

 

 

 

PAD Risk for Women and African Americans

Today, we need to talk about PAD risk for women. And for African Americans. Because, both groups may be more vulnerable. After all, PAD (peripheral arterial disease) is a thickening of the arteries that affects blood flow. It’s a form of cardiovascular disease with symptoms such as painful leg cramps. And those cramps mostly show up when walking or exercising, but get better with risk.

Now, we don’t know why, but women and African Americans are nearly twice as likely to be affected by PAD. That’s the case even for women and Black people without other heart issues. Regardless of age. Now, while this statistic is scary on its own, we also have to share warnings about things that further increase the PAD risk for women and African Americans.

PAD Risk for Women

Not every woman has the same PAD risk. Therefore, you have to look at other factors to figure out your own risk for PAD. Women who are over 60, or who have high blood pressure or cholesterol, have higher PAD risk. But, studies show that PAD risks for women without these factors are almost double that for men without heart disease.

And that’s not all. In a study in the Journal of the American Heart Association, we learned other concerns about the PAD risk for women. As it turns out, women get diagnosed with PAD later than men. Then, after their PAD diagnosis, women’s health deteriorates faster than men’s. In particular, women with PAD lose their ability to walk at a faster rate than men do. Which is why women should start early screening for PAD to help prevent these concerns. As should African Americans, who have additional worries when it comes to their PAD risk.

BMI and PAD

Regardless of your race or gender, your body mass index has an impact on your PAD risk. In a recent study, researchers found a u-shaped relationship between BMI and PAD risk. They discovered that people with BMIs below 25.7 saw a 27% decrease in risk for Peripheral Arterial Disease. And, while there wasn’t a concrete number, people with a BMI level above 25.7 had a significant disease risk increase. Want to know your BMI and relative PAD risk? Start with this resource from the National Institutes of Health.

Smoking and PAD Risks

According to a different study in the Journal of the American Heart Association, smoking is a known risk factor for PAD. But it increases PAD risk for African Americans more than for other at risk groups. In this study, researchers followed 5300 participants between the ages of 21 and 84. Of those participants, 13% were current smokers and 19% were former smokers.

Researchers found that current smokers were twice as likely as non-smokers to have PAD in their lower extremities. They were also eight times as likely to have calcium buildups in the aorta. And how much you smoked matters too: the more cigarettes a participant had smoked each day, the worse off their arterial health.

In the wake of this study, Mariell Jessup, chief science and medical officer of the American Heart Association, says: “The findings from this study give us strong evidence of the specific debilitating and life-threatening risks African American smokers face, especially the more they smoke. This type of research can be useful in the development of clear messages targeted to our African American population to underscore the real physical costs of tobacco product use.”

Worried about your risk for PAD? If you are in a vulnerable population, or have any type of heart disease, preventative screening is important. So schedule an appointment with our Houston vein specialists right away. We can help determine your PAD risk level, and start you on preventative care or treatments.

Sources: Journal of the American Heart Association

Diabetes and PAD: How We Prevent Lost Limbs

Diabetes and PAD make a dangerous combination. After all, Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) limits your blood flow. Then, high blood sugar levels can also compromise your blood flow. (And cause nerve damage, which makes you lose feeling in your extremities.) In combination, these factors mean that even small wounds can turn into big infections. At that point, your diabetic ulcer could put you at risk for amputation.

At this point, that possibility is a big problem. According to a new study from Kaiser Health News, this country is facing an epidemic of diabetic foot amputations. In California alone, between 2011 and 2017, 82,000 individuals lost limbs due to diabetic complications.

Limb Loss and Diabetes

As we mentioned, diabetics lose their limbs for a number of reasons.  The disease can raise sugar levels in the blood stream, which in turn can affect circulation and cause organ damage. Diabetics also often experience reduced sensation in the extremities (neuropathy), which can threaten limbs in two ways:

People with circulatory and nerve damage may not know when they injured their limbs. And, because they have compromised blood circulation, even minor injuries can be slow to heal. Over time, and without routine medical care, these untreated, unhealed injuries become deep wounds (ulcers). Once ulcers develop, diabetics are at immediate risk of losing part of or all of the affected limb. 

Many Amputations are Avoidable

While all the statistics in the study were scary, there’s one fact we, as Houston vein specialists, found particularly scary: many of these amputations would have been avoidable with routine medical care. And, it showed that people who were black or Hispanic were twice as likely to face an amputation, due in large part to inadequate access to care.

So that’s the bad news that we took away from this study, but here’s something that can make you feel more at ease: with proper preventative care, you can keep your diabetes in good control. This can help you prevent devastating complications like amputations.

Cholesterol, Diabetes and PAD

What kind of preventative vein care do we recommend for diabetics? Diabetes can damage your blood vessels (veins, arteries and/or capillaries), causing your body to deposit cholesterol within the vessels in the hopes of preventing further damage.

Now, cholesterol is a waxy substance that occurs naturally in your cells. Your liver also makes cholesterol, or you take in cholesterol from your food. While you may not know this, your body actually needs some cholesterol to function. After all, cholesterol is involved in making vitamin D, your sex hormones, and steroid hormones such as cortisol. Plus, some cholesterol gets converted to bile acids in your body. And you need those acids to absorb vitamins a, d, e and k. In other words, you need a little bit of cholesterol to stay healthy.

But the problems start when your cholesterol levels rise. Because, unfortunately, cholesterol can build up. Then, deposits can clog your arteries, causing a condition known as atherosclerosis. (That’s when your arteries narrow, or harden. It’s what causes PAD, leaving you at risk of heart-related complications.) And that’s where specialists like Drs. Fox, Hardee and Valenson can help: using interventional radiology techniques, we can remove blockages and help restore your blood flow.

Improved blood flow will reduce your risk of ulcers, help heal existing wounds, and go a long way towards preventing limb loss. Plus, it can help relieve other symptoms of PAD, including pain when you walk, hair loss and skin changes. Even better? Choosing minimally invasive PAD treatment can do more to prevent limb loss.

Amputations, PCBs and Peripheral Arteries

A new review from the European Journal of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery suggests that widening your arteries using paclitaxel-coated balloons (PCBs) ups your risk for major amputation. Fortunately, in our office, we can also treat PAD with stents or atherectomy, so you have your choice of limb-saving options. Which, along with diabetes care, may help you preserve your long-term health.

What does all this mean for you? Well, if you have diabetes, make sure you keep up appointments with your regular medical team. (And make sure to address any circulatory problems right away.)  If you’ve got reduced blood flow or atherosclerosis, make an appointment with our team of experts right away. Doing so might just be the decision you make that saves your limbs!

 

Sources: Greatist , Kaiser Health news, diabetes.co.uk

Good and Bad Cholesterol, PAD and Your Veins

In recent years, we’ve told healthy eaters  to focus on ‘good cholesterol.’ That good cholesterol is also called HDL. And it’s touted it’s heart health benefits. Popular diet plans, like the Keto diet, focus on high fat intake. These suggest that eating good fats will be good for you!

What’s behind this idea? The thinking is that LDL (bad cholesterol), not HDL,  causes plaque to build up in your arteries. This build up then leads to conditions like peripheral arterial disease (PAD). And when people have PAD,  blood flow from their heart to the rest of their body slows down. In turn, this can lead to pain, cramping, ulcers and blood clots.

According to old beliefs, HDL moved LDL away from arteries and into the liver. That seemed to prevent the kind of plaque build up that leads to PAD. Because of that kind of thinking, people were encouraged to eat foods that were rich in HDL, like olive oil, salmon and avocado. But now, research is turning that kind of thinking around, warning us that too much HDL can be just as ‘bad’ for your body as the other kind of cholesterol.

Foods to Lower Bad Cholesterol

We know that lowering cholesterol is only one piece of the puzzle. But if you want to fight bad cholesterol, look for foods with omega-3 fatty acids. These include ALA, or alpha linolenic acid, DHA or docosahexaenoic acid and EPA or eicosapentaenoic acid.

Oils, seeds and nuts are strong sources of ALA. But sourcing DHA is harder, since oily fish are the only food-based source for this omega-3.

But what fish are considered oily? Top choices include:

  • Sardines
  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Anchovies
  • Herring
  • Swordfish
  • Trout

 

To get enough DHA, you’d want to have up to four servings each week of these fish. But, while DHA is important for pregnant women, eating that much fish could raise your mercury levels. So you should limit your weekly fish intake and instead talk to your healthcare provider about DHA or fish oil supplements. You should also avoid swordfish entirely while pregnant or nursing.

Even with these dietary fixes, you can’t get away with simply lowering bad cholesterol. Because, as it turns out, good cholesterol isn’t a quick fix for everything. So keep reading to find out why.

The Problem with Good Cholesterol

In this Emory University study, researchers followed 6000 people with an average age of 63 to assess their risk of heart attack or death. As we might have expected from previous studies, participants with middling HDL levels (between 41–60 milligrams per decilitre) had the lowest risk of adverse cardiovascular events. People with HDL levels below that range did, in fact, show increased risk of heart attack.

But here’s the shocking part: people with HDL levels ABOVE that range had the highest risk levels. In fact, their risk of cardiovascular events were increased by 50%! Scientists think that this increased risk is because, in high volumes, HDL may change its behavior. Instead of pulling LDL away from the arteries, it may actually transfer the LDL onto the artery walls, increasing people’s risk of vascular diseases like PAD.

While the evidence is clear in suggesting that high HDL levels increase your risk of heart attack, it is not yet proven that too much good cholesterol is the actual cause of this increased risk. At the same time, it is fact that the ‘right’ amount of HDL can protect your heart health. Given these facts, our Houston vein specialists do not yet recommend changing your diet. Instead we suggest eating heart-healthy fats in moderation. That, combined with a sensible diet and exercise, should keep you in the proven ‘safe’ zone for cholesterol.

New Findings on Olive Oil

Even with warnings about good cholesterol, there’s still evidence supporting olive oil benefits. In fact, a new study in Atherosclerosis says that daily olive oil intake protect against PAD. At the same time, it says that olive pomace oil (extracted from olive pulp) could increase your PAD risk.

The findings were part of PREDIMED-Plus, the largest nutrition trial study in Spain. It involved 4,330 participants. Researchers looked at the ankle-brachial index (ABI), considered a PDA marker. And tried to make a connection with patients’ olive oil and olive pomace oil consumption.

What they found was interesting. Participants with the highest olive oil consumption had higher ABI readings. Which meant lower PAD risks.

And, based on those findings, researchers made an important conclusion. Patients at high risk for cardiovascular disease could help prevent PAD by consuming olive oil. And they could raise their risk by taking pomace olive oil. The study appears to confirm the benefits of following a Mediterranean diet. Which is balanced and full of other heart healthy foods. And likely keeps your good cholesterol levels in the right window.

 

Early Warnings about High Good and Bad Cholesterol

Here’s what else we’ve learned about cholesterol and PAD. Once, we didn’t worry about high cholesterol levels in young people. We thought they had plenty of time to turn the ship around, and take back control of their heart health. But now, a study from the Journal of American Cardiology has a dire warning. According to these findings, having high cholesterol in your teens and 20s is a major risk factor for PAD and other forms of heart disease.

What’s behind these findings? It goes back to bad cholesterol, or LDL levels. Apparently,. the damage LDL causes to your arteries is irreversible. In other words, even if you bring down your bad cholesterol levels in your 30s, you may not be able to prevent hardening of the arteries. Given these findings, treating high cholesterol is critical at any age. Like vein treatments, delaying cholesterol interventions can lead to worse health conditions. Which means you must seek therapy at the first sign of a good and bad cholesterol problem.

Ready to take control of your cholesterol, vein and arterial health? We’re here to help, and we suggest starting with a diagnostic ultrasound. With this tool, we can detect if cholesterol has caused any problems, and get you started on appropriate health care.

Sources: Atherosclerosis Journal, European Society of Cardiology, Science Daily, Journal of the American College of Cardiology

Tech Alert: VR Vein Treatments Can Help Save Your Veins

Did you know that VR tech vein treatments are here to heal you? That’s very exciting! Because, as Houston area vein doctors, we’ve helped pioneer the art of minimally invasive vein treatments. We navigate catheters through your delicate veins. And that lets us treat conditions like varicose veins and peripheral arterial disease. Which is important, since the American Heart Association just released a scientific statement saying we need to pay better attention to PAD diagnostics and care!

In our office, we treat these conditions by relying on 2-D images, usually from X-rays. They stay in front of us during procedures, help guide the way through to blockages or areas that need repair. But now, thanks to a new development in technology, all that may be about to change! 

VR Tech Vein Treatments

There’s a new catheter, developed at the University of Washington. It’s fitted with electromagnetic sensors that feed real-time imaging from inside your blood vessels to a virtual reality headset. If approve, it would help make interventional radiology procedures far more precise.

How could it do so? Well, it would help doctors operate with three-dimensional guides. In fact, the electromagnetic sensors could accurately capture the size and shape of the blood vessels as the tool travels through them.

But it wouldn’t just make procedures more precise. In fact, VR tech vein treatments could help protect doctors AND patients from repeat exposure to radiation. How? Well, by eliminating the need for x-ray technology during minimally invasive vein procedures! And, as an added bonus, VR is cheaper and more transportable than older forms of tech. So life-saving vein treatments could become more accessible to patients living outside of major metro areas and far away from vein centers like Texas Endovascular.

We are eagerly awaiting the device’s approval from the Food and Drug Administration. So we’ll keep our readers posted on this and other new developments in vein health and treatments. It is always our honor to bring patients the newest, safest and most precise vein treatments in the Greater Houston area. Which is why we urge you to make an immediate appointment with our team if you have any symptoms of vein disease or PAD.

Pregnancy and Varicose Veins: What You Need to Know

Varicose Veins & Pregnancy

Today, let’s talk pregnancy and varicose veins: the struggle is real. When you first get pregnant, people will prepare you for a lot of things. From nausea and cravings to fatigue and mood swings, chances are you probably think you’ve heard it all. If only that were true.

For as many as 70% of expectant mothers, varicose veins can come as a somewhat frightening surprise. After all, the last thing you want to see during your pregnancy are unexpected (and unwanted) surprises on your body!

What’s worse? Those veins may not stick on your legs. Many pregnant women develop varicose veins of the vulva. Or they get hemorrhoids, which are actually varicose veins in the rectum.

However, there’s no need to worry: while varicose veins may be uncomfortable, they are not dangerous for you or your pregnancy. Learn more about what causes varicose veins during pregnancy, and what you can do to solve the problem safely.

Why Do Pregnant Women get Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins around the legs, breasts, rectum, and vulva are a very common side effect of pregnancy. Because it now has another being to support, your body produces more blood during pregnancy, which can result in added pressure on your blood vessels.

Effects on your breasts

Spider veins on your breasts may appear as your blood volume increases during your pregnancy. They’ll likely appear in your first trimester, and may continue during breastfeeding. At that time, the milk in your breasts can make the veins more visible, but they should fade when your baby weans. 

Now, if you also notice pain, redness or fever, you may have an infection called mastitis. This can develop if bacteria enters your milk duct, and can be serious if you don’t seek immediate treatment.

Lower Body Pregnancy Effects

This effect is particularly pronounced near your lower body, as your legs are responsible for working against gravity to deliver the extra blood to your heart. This blood also moves more slowly than normal, increasing the pressure placed on the veins and causing them to bulge. In addition to bulging veins, the extra blood has been known to cause hemorrhoids and swollen vulva.

It may sound strange, but the varicose veins in your vagina are a common effect of pregnancy. They are caused by increased blood flow to your vagina, and also by your growing uterus, which puts pressure on those veins. Plus, increased production of the hormone progesterone during pregnancy is also a contributing factor to the development of varicose veins. Wherever they may pop up.

Addressing Leg Swelling

Of course, varicose veins aren’t the only troubling pregnancy side effect. So many women also develop swollen legs and ankles. In fact, the two symptoms often go hand-in-hand. And they’re triggered by the same problem: extra weight puts more pressure on your lower extremities. That pressure makes it harder for blood, and other fluids, to leave your legs and return to your heart, so your veins and legs often swell from the extra fluid.

Fortunately, there’s one common solution to both these issues: compression socks. When you wear compression socks while you’re pregnant, they can offer pain relief by encouraging proper blood flow. These compression socks can also help prevent edema (swelling) as well as varicose veins. But what if you’ve already noticed these pesky veins popping up? Just keep reading to find out your next best steps.

Treating Varicose Veins in Pregnancy compression socks and pregnancy

While your varicose veins pose no risk to you or your child during pregnancy, they are unsightly and can be somewhat painful. Fortunately, there are plenty of safe, all-natural options for alleviating discomfort until they recede naturally.

  • Elevate Your Legs: When you have some time to lie down and relax, try to elevate your legs above your heart for about 15 minutes. This will help the blood recirculate appropriately, and is most effective if done at least three or four times a day. To maintain results, consider wearing compression stockings during the day.
  • Practice Proper Sitting: Try not to cross your legs, or sit on your feet, to preserve blood flow.
  • Sleep on your left side. This can promote better blood flow. Add offer a number of other benefits. 
  • Watch weight gain: Being overweight increases your varicose vein risk. Your doctor can suggest a healthy, targeted weight gain based on your pre-pregnancy Body-Mass Index (BMI).
  • Try Warm Baths. These can be especially soothing to varicose veins in your vagina. But stay away from hot baths, as they can be dangerous for your baby.
  • Stay Mobile: While being pregnant can zap your energy, staying active is essential to preventing and alleviating varicose veins. Hardcore gym trips aren’t necessary; simply work in a few walks or some light cardio each day to promote stronger circulation during pregnancy.
  • Skip Tight Clothing: That’s especially important around your stomach, waist and legs, since snug fits can restrict your blood flow.
  • Sleep On Your Left Side: While it might take some getting used to, sleeping on your left side comes with a number of health benefits, including the reduction of varicose veins and an increase in blood flow to the fetus. Sleeping on your left side reduces the amount of pressure put on the vena cava, your body’s largest vein, which is located on the right side of your body.
  • Take Your Vitamins: A healthy diet rich in vitamin C can work wonders for improving vein health during pregnancy, by providing your body with the tools it needs to generate collagen and repair damaged blood vessels.

After-Baby Solutions

In most cases, varicose veins fade on their own once pregnancy has ended…but sometimes, that just isn’t the case. While surgical vein treatments are not safe during pregnancy, they could be your best option for removing varicose veins after you’ve welcomed your child.

If you’re ready to fight back against varicose veins, Texas Endovascular offers a number of varicose treatment options to ensure that you receive the right results for your exact needs. Our procedures are minimally invasive, require only local anesthesia, and can be performed conveniently in-office. Discover what Texas Endovascular can do for your post-pregnancy body, and schedule your consultation today.

Sources: Kidspot, Baby Gaga, American Pregnancy Association

4 Ways to Benefit from a Standing Desk

By now, most of us know how dangerous it can be to sit all day: it takes a toll on your weight, your veins and your heart. In order to fight this prevalent problem, many Americans have turned to standing desks, especially if you’ve switched to a work-from-home setting and are spending more time on your rear.

Still, standing all day can also be a problem, leaving you with foot pain, swollen feet and legs, and overworked, collapsed veins that swell and protrude. Ready to switch to a standing desk, but want to avoid extra health problems? Read on for our list of the top ways to benefit from a standing desk!

Four Ways to Make Standing Desks Work for You

  1. Switch it Up Every Hour. Most people who experience problems with standing desks suffer because they stand still for too long. If you alternate between sitting and standing every hour or so, you can avoid the downsides of staying put in any one position.
  2. Build Tolerance Slowly. Just because you see coworkers standing for a full hour, every day, doesn’t mean your body can handle that pressure on the first day your new desk arrives. Standing is a form of exercise so, like any sport, you should slowly increase your endurance. On your first week, try standing for 15 minutes at a time, then take a long sitting break. Once you’re really comfortable, you can add to your time, working in 10-minute increments. And remember, never work towards periods lasting longer than an hour in one position.
  3. Create Accountability. When you first shift to a standing desk, you may forget to get up from your chair. Or, once standing, you may forget to sit at a safe and appropriate interval. To help you get into a comfortable rhythm, it can be useful to set alarms at 15 minute intervals, reminding you to stand up or sit down.
  4. Carefully consider your footwear. As we mentioned earlier, standing should be considered physical activity, so if your office dress code allows it, opt for sneakers, especially in the early days of your standing desk. If sneakers are too casual, opt for a supportive shoe with room for cushion or gel insoles. This will help take a lot of pressure off your feet and lower extremities.

Standing Desk Exercises to Boost Blood Flow

Luckily, if you’ve got a smart phone, it’s easier than ever to protect your vein health during shifts from sitting to your standing desk. One app we’re excited about is Workout Exercises on Your Office Chair, a free offering for iOS and android systems.

Most of their workouts are designed for your standing desk breaks, when you’re down on your chair. (And we love that, since it will force you to take breaks from standing.) Each of their 13 signature moves can boost blood flow by getting your heart pumping. But we’re really digging their chair bicycle move, since it builds your core strength while also moving blood in and out of your legs. (This could help fight edema, swelling in your lower legs due to fluid build-up.)

Of course, even when you take care to adapt properly to a standing desk, it is quite easy to overdo things and put pressure on your veins, legs and feet. If you’ve noticed that the veins in your legs are more prominent in color, or seem to be bulging, it could be a sign of a developing problem like varicose veins. And that means that it’s time to schedule an immediate consultation with your Houston vein doctors to avoid further damage.

Sources: nbcnews.com

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