Category: Health Lifestyle

DVT and Pregnancy: What You Need to Know

Here’s what you need to know about DVT and pregnancy. A Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a condition in which blood clots form in the deep veins of your body. These deep veins are exactly what they sound like: situated deep inside your body, far away from your skin’s surface. Because the veins aren’t visible, a clot could form unnoticed. And if it doesn’t get treated, it could break free from its initial position, travelling through the circulatory system and ending up in other parts of your body. If that happens, you could be facing a life-threatening medical emergency, especially if the clot travels to your lungs (also known as a pulmonary embolism.)

Many factors can elevate your risk of DVT, including long plane flights, surgery and your age.

Today, we also know that COVID-19 increases your risk for blood clots and DVT, even if your initial symptoms were relatively mild.

Of course, even with vaccines now available, pregnancy probably feels frightening. You may be worried about delivering during the times of Coronavirus, and we aren’t here to scare you.

Still, today, we’re going to look at the connection between pregnancy and your risk for DVT. In that way, you can  protect your vein health during this very different time. When you are pregnant, the blood-clotting factors in your body fluctuate, making clotting more likely. In fact, most pregnant women have a DVT rate that is five-times higher than when they are not expecting. And this elevated risk is a very big deal: DVT is one of the leading killers for pregnant women; your DVT risk is highest in your third trimester and for the first week after delivering your baby.

So, now that you understand your DVT risk during pregnancy, let’s examine the ways in which we can protect your health.

Managing Your DVT Risk During Pregnancy

If you already had a history of blood clots before getting pregnant, your doctor may suggest taking blood thinners while you are expecting. But if you are an otherwise-healthy woman, making smart lifestyle choices during pregnancy can help manage your risk for DVT. Following a healthy diet, and preventing gestational diabetes, can help lower your DVT risk, since being overweight can also increase your likelihood for DVT. Sticking to a regular, doctor-approved exercise program can also help lower your risk for DVT.

Of course, there are never guarantees when it comes to clot prevention. So, if you are pregnant and concerned about clotting, we invite you to discuss your DVT risk with one of our Houston-area vein specialists! Concerned about coming to the office for an in-person visit? Don’t worry: we offer Telemedicine appointments for your comfort and safety. But, whether virtually or in our office, we urge you not to wait to address blood clot concerns. If you think you have a DVT, call our office and request an immediate appointment. We’ll see you right away, and decide if you need to head directly to the emergency room!

 

Sources: Journal Radiology,

Here’s What Smoking Does to Arteries

Ever wonder what smoking does to arteries? Even though May 31 is World No Tobacco Day, our Houston vein specialists celebrate that one every day. Why? The day is meant to raise awareness of the terrible impact tobacco has on your health. Now, we likely all know that smoking impacts your lungs and raises your risk for many types of cancer. But did you also know that smoking harms your blood health? That is, unfortunately, the case, and it does so by limiting blood flow through your arteries and veins in two main ways.

Smoking Limits Blood Flow

Nicotine, the addictive chemical contained in traditional and e-cigarettes, causes your blood vessels to narrow. This narrowing limits the amount of blood vessels can carry and, over time, it causes them to become more rigid, losing flexibility. This stiffening of the vessels makes your heart work harder, in turn raising your blood pressure.

Tobacco use of any kind is also a strong risk factor for developing peripheral arterial disease (PAD). While plaque typically develops because of an unhealthy diet, the chemicals in cigarette smoke weaken the inner cell layer of our blood vessels, making it easier for plaque to stick to them.

Initial PAD Warning Signs

When plaque is building up to dangerous levels, you will likely first experience leg symptoms. They may start to hurt for no apparent reason, especially while you’re walking. Why? As you walk, your body needs increased blood flow; if limitations in your arteries slow or stop that blood flow, you will experience pain. While it can be tempting to brush off this kind of pain as typical exercise related cramps, that’s a bad idea, especially if you smoke. Any kind of leg pain is a symptom worth discussing with your doctor.

Another sign of developing PAD? Feeling a heaviness in your chest while you walk up the stairs. Of course, plenty of people feel winded when climbing multiple flights of stairs, but if you start to have problems after just a few steps, you should consider this a troubling warning sign.

If you have PAD, you may also experience other symptoms. Your wounds may heal slowly, because injuries need oxygen to heal, but narrowed or blocked arteries make it hard for healing oxygen to reach those wounds.

A change in toe color could also occur, since your blood is having a tough time reaching those lower extremities. As a result, they may start to lose some color, taking on a blue-ish tinge.

Finally, you may notice a loss of leg hair: Your hair follicles are nourished by blood flow; they die without a proper supply, causing your hair to fall out. Because of this, loss of hair (especially below the knees) is an easy way to spot PAD.

PAD: What Smoking Does to Arteries

Smokers risk of developing or worsening their case of PAD is about four times higher than that of non-smokers, but don’t panic yet: by quitting smoking, you can greatly reduce your risk of PAD, heart attack, stroke and/or aneurysm (burst blood clot). Snubbing out this bad habit will also have positive effects in a number of different ways in regards to your overall health, so there is no reason not to quit!

If you smoke, talk to your doctor about any of the warning signs we’ve discussed, and start developing a plan to quit. Not ready to get into the doctor’s office? Check out the resources at Smokefree.gov, and remember e-cigarettes and cigarette alternatives like Juul are equally dangerous, thanks to the nicotine they all contain!

Need more help managing the effects of smoking on your arteries? We’re here to help. Just reach out to our specialists for an appointment. With proper care, we can help reverse the effects of what smoking does to arteries in your body.

Sources: Cleveland Clinic

Do This for 30 minutes each Day for Healthier Veins!

Everyone wants healthier veins and great-looking legs. But not everyone wants to spend tons of time getting to that point! Fall into that category? Don’t worry! As it turns out, all you need to do is walk for 30 minutes, every day, and you’ll score healthy veins, great looking legs, and a whole slew of other benefits!

Walking for healthier veins

Walk your way to a lower risk of vein disease!

Varicose veins are a common problem, with the risk increasing every year that goes by. Thankfully, this simple, daily walking routine can help prevent varicose veins from developing on your legs.

Why? Your venous system is composed of the muscles, veins, and valves in your calf and foot. All those components work together to push blood from your legs, up to the heart. In order to get there, you need strong muscles, since their contractions can help blood flow against gravity with fast, strong pushes.

When you walk, you strengthen the muscles in your calves, helping push your blood out of the legs and preventing the type of pooling that can cause veins to bulge in an unsightly manner. And, if you already have varicose veins, these 30 minutes of walking can help ease some of the swelling and pain that’s often associated with the condition.

5 More Benefits of Daily Walking

  1. Lose Weight

Even though it’s low-impact, walking still helps you burn off excess calories. Do it every day, and you just may notice a drop on the scale—or some extra room in your waist band!

  1. Fight off Diabetes

According to the American Diabetes Association, daily walking packs a double punch: it lowers your blood sugar levels and decreases your overall risk of developing diabetes.

  1. Improve Digestion

When you walk, you engage your core muscles to hold you up and move you forward. And stronger core muscles can help get things moving in your digestive tract, making it easier to regulate your bowel movements without dietary additions or supplements.

  1. Protect your joints

Unlike running, daily walks are great for your joints. Why? The movement increases blood flow to your legs, and it helps strengthen the muscles that protect and support your joints. That’s why studies show that just 10 minutes of daily walking can help fight arthritis…now imagine what happens when you triple that number!

  1. Improve your sleep

Regular daily workouts boost your body’s response to and production of melatonin, the body’s sleep hormone. That means your workouts will help you sleep better—so long as you avoid physical activity an hour or two before bed time, as this may rile you up and make it more difficult to fall asleep at your chosen bed time.

Running, Biking and Vein Health

While walking promotes healthier veins, the same isn’t always true of running. As it turns out, when you work your leg veins too hard, with strenuous exercise, problems can develop. For that reason, marathon runners and competitive cyclists often struggle with venous insufficiency. (That’s when the valves in your leg veins don’t work well. Making it harder for blood to get out of your legs and back up to your heart.)

How can exercise lead to vein problems? After all, we’ve all been told that regular exercise leads to healthier veins! Well, the answer lies in how hard you work your legs. Because repeatedly putting intense pressure on your leg veins can wear them down. Meaning, even if you run once in a while, you should switch up your daily workouts. And try to get in some daily walking sessions to give your veins a boost. (And a break!)

Already dealing with vein health challenges? Don’t worry, we can help! Schedule a consultation today with our Houston vein specialists. Together, we’ll review the lifestyle changes and medical interventions you need to enjoy healthier veins!

Sources: Runner’s Tribe17,  Prevention Magazine

7 Ways to Safely Fly With Varicose Veins

Are you worried about flying with varicose veins? Right now, we know everyone is worried about the safety of air travel. Even as Texas reopens for business, we know you’ve still got worries.

After all, plane travel can take a toll on anyone’s health (and patience) but, for people with vein disease or compromised vascular systems, it can be particularly dangerous. This is especially true if severe varicose veins have left you with edema (swelling in your legs.) Fortunately, your vein health issues don’t have to keep you grounded, although this is officially the summer of the road trip. But, if you choose to fly, or even if you’re stuck sitting for a long drive, follow these three tips for long travel with vein disease: plane exercises

1. Rock your compression socks while flying with varicose veins

Anyone with a history of DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis), stroke, cancer, or heart disease; anyone who’s recently had pelvic or leg surgery; or anyone who is pregnant or obese is particularly at risk of having a health problem on a flight–especially if the travel time is eight hours or longer. Anyone in this higher risk category should talk to a doctor before flying. Most likely, your doctor will emphasize the importance of getting up regularly during your flight. You will also likely be fitted for compression socks, which come in a variety of styles and sizes. They also offer a range of compression levels, so be sure to ask your vein specialist how much force is necessary to keep you safe. Compression socks are important for air travel because they improve your circulation while reducing the risk of swelling and blood clots!

2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

It’s important for all travelers to up their liquid intake on flights, but it’s crucial for people with vein problems. People tend to dehydrate on planes, and dehydration can actually make your body retain its remaining fluids. Of course, fluid retention and swelling go hand in hand, and swelling can cause problems with blood clots. To avoid this domino effect, start drinking as soon as you board the plane, and keep going throughout the flight. Bonus? You’ll probably have to use the restroom more often, which will help ensure your continued movement while in the air! ‘

3. Sneak in a Mid-Flight Workout or Take a Road Side Break

There are many times during a flight where getting up and walking around is simply not an option. But we know that movement is a crucial part of preventing blood clots. So what’s an air traveler to do? Sneak in a workout–without ever leaving your seat! Try this simple sequence whenever you remember, and your veins will likely stay in good shape throughout the flight: Extend both your legs, moving both feet in a circular motion. Next, bring one knee at a time up to your chest, holding the position for a minimum of 15 seconds. Finally, return both feet to the floor and point them upward. Lift both your heels as high as you can, and hold for as long as is comfortably possible.

4. Look for Leg Room

While it costs more, upgrading your seat to enjoy more leg room could really make a difference to your vein health. Because, even if you’re not in first class, more room makes it easier to move your legs. And moving your legs more will lower your risk for clots or other vein issues while you travel.

5. Skip the Sleeping Pills.

So many of us swallow a sleeping aid after takeoff so we can snooze away the hours in flight. But that’s a big problem for your veins. Because if you deeply sleep through your flight, you won’t get up and move. Instead, aim for cat naps. Interrupted by plenty of activity breaks. (Go back to point three for tips on what to do during those breaks.)

6. Pick Safe Travel Outfits

It may be tempting to wear your cutest outfit if you’re seeing family or friends at the airport after months of distancing. But steer clear of tight jeans or even fitted yoga pants, as both can restrict your blood flow. Instead, opt for loose-fitting clothes that won’t put any extra pressure on your legs or feet. That way, your blood can flow without restrictions. And you can always pull off an outfit change just before landing if you prefer a different look.

7. Treat Varicose Veins Before Flying

What’s the safest way of flying with varicose veins? That’s actually a trick question. Because your safest bet is to seek varicose vein treatment before boarding an airplane. What does that mean for you? Well, if you’ve got a plane reservation coming up (or if you’re just dreaming of travel), don’t wait. Make an appointment today with our Houston vein specialists. We’ll discuss your vein health options, suggesting treatments that could make it safer to fly, or even sharing guidance to get you through your trip until you have time to treat those spider veins!

Sources: National Blood Clot Alliance

 

Move it Monday: Should You Take 10000 Steps a Day?

Today let’s look at a lofty goal: taking 10000 steps a day. Now, we all know that exercise is crucial for our health. And, as your Houston vein specialists, we want you to know that movement—especially walking—is great for your veins. In fact, according to an eight-year study from the AARP, moving just 15 minutes a day could add three years to your life.

So, we confirm: exercise is important. But what about walking 10,000 steps a day? Well, according to that AARP study, every additional 15 minutes of activity lowers your mortality risk by another 4%. But do you need to hit a set goal? It’s a good question, because that number gets floated around a lot right now. It’s the target for every FitBit user out there, and the subject of much debate. So what does that mean for people who can’t get in 10,000 steps. Is more better? Is less worthless? Here’s what you need to know about walking, your overall health and, specifically, your vein health.

Why is Walking so Good for You?

Walking carries so many potential benefits. Let’s take a closer look.

1. Walk your way to weight loss.

Even though it’s low-impact, walking is still a great form of cardiovascular exercise. You burn calories when you walk, helping support your weight goals. And, because it won’t put much pressure on your joints, it’s an accessible exercise option for many people. And you start enjoying the benefits of walking with even a few minutes each day, so you don’t need to hit 10,000 steps a day to get benefits.

2. Walking can reduce the appearance of varicose veins

When you walk, you’re doing important work for your veins. Why is walking so important? Your venous system is made up of the muscles, veins, and valves you find in your calf and foot. When functioning properly, these components work together to push blood from your legs up to your heart. But they need to be strong in order to work properly, since stronger muscle contractions give the push your blood needs to flow against gravity.

Now, walking is a great way to strengthen the muscles in your calves, since it targets those specific muscles. Just the simple activity of walking also helps push blood up and out of your legs. This helps prevent the type of pooling which can cause your veins to bulge. Already have varicose veins? Here’s the good news: walking can help ease some of the swelling and pain you may experience already. Ideally, you’d walk for at least 30 minutes a time, which is likely short of 10,000 steps but is still a great place to start.

Are there Walking Benefits below 10,000 Steps a Day?

Of course! 10,000 steps a day is a great target number to hit, but it’s not the only way to win your fitness routine. Think of it like your diet: you should try to make good choices all the time, but even eating well one day a week is still a great start toward your health goals.

In fact, a study in JAMA Internal Medicine suggested that taking as few as 4400 steps each day reduced your risk for premature death by 41% when compared to taking 2500 steps a day. And you could get those steps in any way you want—power walking, strolling, or even just walking around your house and cleaning up.

So, what does that suggest to all of us? When it comes to movement and walking, more is likely better. But anything you do is likely to have a positive impact on your general health. So, how can you take more steps each day, especially in this time of limited excursions? Check out our tips for adding steps to your daily counting goals.

 

3 Easy Ways to Take More Steps Each Day

1.       Choose to move

If you’re driving to an appointment, park farther away from the entrance. If you’re going up a few floors in a building, take the stairs instead of the elevator (and score some bonus social distancing points!) Need the kids to come inside now? Call out to them instead of just shouting from your front porch (your neighbors will also be pleased, we’re guessing.) In short, look for opportunities to build movement into your daily routine. And take those opportunities when you find them!

 

2. Ring the alarm

When you’re stuck working from home, or even if you get to go back to your office, it can be easy to stay glued to one spot. Don’t let this happen! Instead, set a reminder on your phone or watch for regular intervals: every 15 minutes, 30 minutes or even every hour. And when that reminder goes off, don’t press snooze: instead, get up and move. Walk to the kitchen for a drink of water, walk the stairs in your building—just do something that keeps your blood pumping in those legs for at least 5 minutes.

3. Don’t get defeated

One final thought on those 10,000 steps: there’s nothing wrong with setting movement goals for yourself. But don’t get defeated if you don’t hit those goals, and give up entirely. Instead, try to set the bar to an attainable goal at first, gradually working your way up to 10,000 steps or beyond. Just be sure to clear any new fitness routine with your doctor before you get started, in order to prevent any complications.

Sources: American Association of Retired Persons, JAMA Internal Medicine

Why did my feet turn darker than the rest of my skin?

Have you noticed the skin on your feet turn darker than other areas of your skin? Are you concerned that this may be a cause for concern? Well, if you are–you’re right! Darkening skin in your feet can be a sign of several different vein conditions. And all of them should be brought to your doctor’s attention.

Why Feet Turn Darker Changes in skin color, when feet turn darker, is a warning for vein disease

For light skinned individuals, several things can cause your feet to turn darker. In fact, feet that are darker than the rest of your skin can be a side effect of varicose veins. When you have varicose veins (incompetent veins that aren’t functioning properly) blood pools in your legs. And that leads to swelling–both in your veins and possibly in your legs themselves. In some instances, red blood cells may leak outside the varicose veins. These cells carry some red pigment that, over time, may turn black in color. When these cells end up in your feet, they may contribute to the darker skin color.

While an abundance of red blood cells may cause your feet to change color, lack of blood flow may also affect the appearance of your feet. As plaque builds up in our bodies due to fat and cholesterol, a condition known as Peripheral Arterial Diesease (PAD) may set in. PAD occurs when plaque sticks to your arteries, narrowing them significantly and thus affecting blood flow throughout your body. With PAD, less oxygen-rich blood may reach your feet. In contrast to skin darkening related to varicose veins, color changes related to PAD are unlikely to be accompanied by swelling. Additionally, your dark feet are likely to feel cold or even numb.

Smoking and Changes in Skin Color

While internal factors can certainly contribute to changes in the color of your feet, it’s also important to examine problems in your own habits. Smokers especially may notice marked changes in their skin color:

  1. Chemicals in cigarettes speed up the aging process, often leaving smokers with uneven skin tone.
  2. Nicotine constricts your blood vessels, restricting oxygen and blood flow to your extremities. This makes smoking especially dangerous for people with vein conditions that already affect blood flow.
  3. Smokers’ wounds take longer to heal. If you smoke, have diabetes and notice your feet turning black, you may be dealing with a dangerous ulcer you haven’t even noticed.

    Cancer, Eczema and Other Potential Culprits

    While all these factors are less common, they could also change the color of your feet. Eczema, when it manifests on your feet can change the color of your skin tone. Kaposi’s sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that forms in lymph and blood vessels , can also make the skin on your feet appear darker due to the lesions that characterize this condition.

Houston Specialists Treating Feet That Turn Darker

Regardless of the reason for the change, when the skin on your feet turns dramatically darker, it should be cause for more than just cosmetic concern. All of the things that change the color of the feet will need medical attention, so this is one symptom you should never dismiss or ignore.

Now, when you come in for your vein consultation, your specialist will give you treatment options. You’ve got many choices when you want to treat varicose veins. But one choice, sclerotherapy, probably won’t be an option. You see, sclerotherapy is mostly a cosmetic treatment.

Of course, this is a great option if all you want is younger looking legs. It’s very effective when you’re dealing with spider veins, but not when you have varicose veins. And, if your feet turn darker, your disease is likely more serious. So you’ll need greater interventions to improve your health, and your leg and foot appearance.

Ready to make a big step towards reversing the skin damage of varicose veins? Come into our office right away. We’ll conduct a thorough examination and figure out your next best course of action.

Sources: Flux Magazine

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

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 

The 7 Best Exercises for Varicose Veins

Varicose Veins Exercise

Varicose veins are veins that become enlarged or stretched out due to blood that pools in the legs. In addition to making your veins bulge, they can cause the following symptoms:

Learn more about
varicose vein
symptoms here
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  • Tired, Achy Legs
  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Numbness
  • Nighttime Leg Cramps
  • Restless Leg Syndrome
  • Rashes
  • Swelling
  • Ulcers or Sores

Since varicose veins are primarily caused by inactivity in the legs over a long period of time, getting out there and doing some exercises can help prevent and alleviate the symptoms associated with varicose veins.

How Does Exercise Help Prevent Varicose Veins?

While there’s no way to completely prevent varicose veins, regular exercise can help reduce the chances that you’ll get them. Simply changing your sitting or standing position regularly can improve your blood circulation, which helps reduce the amount of blood swelling the veins in your legs.

Exercise can increase your body’s ability to pump blood up the leg back toward the heart. It also helps keep your weight down, which further decreases your chances of getting varicose veins. Walking is a good choice, as are low-impact activities, such as swimming and biking.

What Exercises Prevent Varicose Veins?

If you already have varicose veins, exercise can keep them from getting worse and also help alleviate pain and discomfort. Generally, low-impact exercises are best, and include the following:

Walking or Running biking exercise for varicose veins

Walking just 30 minutes a day for five days a week can yield good benefits. If you run, try to find a grassy surface or synthetic track to minimize the stress on your joints.

Leg Lifts

You need to do this move regularly to see the benefits. But the great news is that this is one of the exercises for varicose veins that require no equipment. To start your leg lifts, sit or lie on your back while sticking your feet straight out. Lift one leg at a time up, holding it in the air. Slowly lower it down and repeat with the other leg.

Bicycling or Bicycle Legs

Riding a bike or stationary bike is also helpful. It strengthens your calf muscles, which helps pump blood out of your legs and keeps it flowing in the right direction. If you don’t have access to any kind of bike, you can try this bicycle legs exercise. While lying on your back, put your legs in the air, bending them at the knee. Pedal them slowly as if you are bicycling. Try both legs at once, or alternate one at a time.

Lunges

Working your leg muscles sends more blood to your heart. That makes your heart work harder, so it’s ready to do the important job of circulating blood through your body. To get into proper lunge position, stand with your legs apart. Step forward slowly, bending your knee and making sure to keep your knee directly above your ankle. Hold it, then slowly straighten your leg and step back to your original position. Repeat with the other leg. While standing with your legs straight, rise up on your tiptoes and then lower back down. Repeat.

Rocking Your Feet

Like calf raises (see below), rocking your feet can strengthen leg muscles that are important for your circulation. Then, as a bonus, it can also help you improve your balance! Ready to give it a try? While you’re sitting or standing, rock your feet back and forth from heel to toe. This can be done at any time and is also helpful if health conditions prevent you from trying other forms of exercise.

Other Vein Health Exercises to Consider

When you suffer from chronic vein disease, you are vulnerable to venous leg ulcers: hard-to-heal sores that develop on your legs due to a combination of damaged capillaries and lymphatic ducts, and lack of oxygen in your lower legs. Once they develop, ulcers are hard to heal because, once again, of the shortage of oxygen reaching your lower limbs.

Fortunately, managing your vein disease with doctor-approved exercise can help protect you from developing ulcers. And, if ulcers have already formed, new evidence suggests that certain exercises may speed up your healing process!

Calf Raises and Venous Leg Ulcers calf raise exercise for ulcers

According to Dr. Laura Bolton, a member of the Wounds advisory board, evidence suggests that structured exercise training (SET) can help speed up the healing process for both venous leg wounds and diabetic foot ulcers. Chief among those exercises included in the SET program? Calf raises, thanks to their ability to get the heart pumping and improve circulation to the lower extremities.

In her study, 77% of patients with venous leg ulcers had completely healed after a 12-week progressive exercise program; only 53% of non-exercisers enjoyed the same result. When it came to diabetic foot wounds, individuals who exercised for just 30 of the 96-day trial window saw a dramatic result in the size of their ulcers.

In revealing her findings, Bolton said: “This suggests that the more patients engage in calf muscle exercise, the more and earlier they improve their chronic VLU or DFU healing…[This could lead to saving] limbs and lives of patients. ”

Calf-Raise Routine for Improved Circulation

While no vein disease patient should engage in a new exercise routine without a doctor’s supervision, it is a good idea to discuss your physical activity once you’ve been diagnosed with vein health issues. Ask your doctor if it is safe to try this calf-raise routine, and you may just enjoy preventative or healing health benefits!

Standing Calf Raises

Position yourself on a staircase, with your hands resting against a wall or a sturdy object for balance and your heels hanging off the back edge of the stair. Raise your heels a few inches above the edge of the step so that you’re on your tiptoes. Hold the position for a moment, and then lower your heels below the platform, feeling a stretch in your calf muscles. That’s one rep; aim for three sets of 10-15 reps each. Please note that you may have to build up to that level of performance.

Seek Varicose Vein Treatment

Exercise can be helpful when dealing with varicose veins, but you may also need treatment to achieve better results. Texas Endovascular offers minimally invasive, in-office procedures that don’t require general anesthesia or sedation. Several different treatment options are available for varicose veins, and each requires little or no recovery time. In fact, most patients are able to return to work the same day. We’ll choose the procedure that will yield the best results in your particular case, improving your comfort level as well as appearance.

Contact Texas Endovascular at (713) 575-3686 today for more information about the best exercises and treatments for varicose veins and to schedule an appointment!

 

Sources: Bolton, Laura, MD. “Exercise and Chronic Wound Healing.” Azura Vascular Care

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