Category: Health Lifestyle

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:

  • 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

6 Signs You Need to Boost Circulation (And How to Do It)

Sometimes, you just need some help to boost circulation. You may know that poor circulation can put your vein health at risk. But would you know if your circulation was already compromised? As it turns out, there are several early symptoms that you’ll notice when your circulation first becomes compromised. And we’re here to help you identify those warnings signs, so you can see your vein specialist and get help to boost circulation right away.

Symptoms of Poor Circulation

When your circulation is sluggish, or not working as well as it should, you may notice that:

·         Your hands and feet are often cold, or even numb

·        Muscle cramps pop up, especially in your legs

·         You experience tingling, throbbing or stinging leg pain

·         There’s a blue tint to the skin on your legs

·         The hair on your legs and feet may fall out

·        Nails get brittle and skin is dry

When your circulation is compromised, your metabolism may slow down. And that means you may gain weight, even if your diet and exercise routine remains the same.

Now you know some of the warning signs of poor circulation, let’s explore what causes those problems, and learn  how you can give your circulatory system a boost.

What Causes Poor Circulation? spider veins on legs

Many different issues can compromise your circulation. But certain conditions will almost certainly impact your blood flow. We’ll take a look at the three worst offenders.

  • Varicose veins

    These bulging veins usually develop when your internal valves malfunction.  That failure keeps blood from flowing up and out of your legs, towards your heart. It’s an obvious cause and symptom of poor circulation.

  • Diabetes

    As your blood sugar levels are high, you can develop clogs in your blood vessel. This, in turn, will impact your circulation.

  • Obesity

    Indirectly, carrying extra weight makes movement more challenging. And when movement is challenging, you become more sedentary, which can decrease your circulation. Extra pounds also put more pressure on your legs—and the veins inside them—increasing your risk of varicose veins.

So, now you’ve seen some of the issues that can make problems for your circulatory system, let’s figure out how to boost your circulation!

How Can I Boost Circulation?

The most important way to protect your circulation is to live a healthy lifestyle. And that includes dropping your nicotine habit if you smoke or vape. Why is that so crucial? Nicotine hits your circulatory system with a two-part punch: first, it thickens your blood, which slows down its flow. Plus, it causes your blood vessels to narrow, which makes it even more difficult for blood to circulate through your body.

Of course, not smoking is important, but on its own, this step won’t completely protect you from circulatory problems. You should also strive to maintain a healthy blood pressure—have your levels checked regularly by your doctor, and strive to maintain a reading of 120 over 80 (or lower.) If you aren’t in that optimal range, discuss ways of lowering your pressure with your healthcare provider.

Lifestyle Changes to Boost Circulation

Certain lifestyle habits can also help improve your circulation—especially good hydration. Since your blood is about half water, staying hydrated helps keep it flowing through your body. It’s also important to move frequently throughout your day. Sitting or standing in one spot for extended periods of time takes a major toll on your circulation. Simply taking more walking breaks can do wonders, but consider stepping up your aerobic exercise by incorporating regular 30 minute sessions into your weekly routine. Swimming and biking are great, low-impact options.

And here’s a great (and relaxing) way to boost circulation: get a massage! With a medically-approved massage, gentle rubbing in areas where your blood pools could boost circulation. Thanks to moderate pressure, that blood may get moving, and that could improve circulation to the rest of your body.

Circulation Boosting Diet and Gear

Your diet matters, too, when it comes to circulation. Eat lots of fruits and veggies, and carefully monitor (and limit) your salt intake. You should also limit (or avoid) the saturated fats found in many cheeses and animal proteins, as they can lead to fatty build-ups in your arteries, which will further hamper circulation. Try adding green tea to your diet if you need to boost circulation. As few as two cups a day could relax your blood vessels. This could, in turn, widen them and help boost circulation and blood flow.

And, finally, if circulation problems are already seriously impacting your health, you may want to being compression therapy. This sounds scarier than it actually is. In fact, this form of therapy involves the regular wearing of compression stockings. These simple pieces of clothing (which now come in a variety of styles and colors) put a little pressure on your legs to help get blood out of the area and back up to your heart.  This can improve your circulation and limit many of the symptoms association with circulatory problems, like spider veins or heavy, achy legs.

 

If left untreated, circulatory problems can cause you to experience serious health problems. But if you take note of early warning signals and seek treatment from your Houston vein specialists, you can improve your circulation and avoid or even reverse any associated complications!

 

Sources: SCNow.com, University Herald, Bel Marra Health

Fight All-Day Sitting Problems with These Easy Tips

So many of us spend all day sitting at a desk, staring at our computers.  Especially now that many of us have moved to a work-from-home model. The longest we’re walking is from the couch to the kitchen for a snack! This sedentary lifestyle takes a toll on so many parts of our lives. Posture suffers. Our waistlines start to expand. And our veins don’t work as well as they should. Basically, sitting all day is slowly killing us.

Side Effects of Sitting all-day sitting hurts your veins

We know that sitting all day can lead to weight gain. But that’s not the only problem with sitting all day long. When you sit for too long, you may face challenges such as:

Shorter Life

The Cancer Prevention Study II showed that sitting more than six hours a day, vs.  less than three hours per day, resulted in a higher risk of death. If you spend more time sitting, you are more likely to die from cardiac disease, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, and suicide.

Blood Clots

Sitting for long periods of time increases your risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). When you don’t move enough, your blood flow slows down. That’s when clots can form, break off, and move to other parts of your body. And if one of those clots reaches your lungs, you could develop a life-threatening pulmonary embolism .

Varicose Veins

These large, swollen veins can be a result of all-day sitting… or standing! Doing either activity for  too long can cause blood to pool in your legs. And that collected blood puts more pressure on your veins, which can then stretch. When stretched, your vein walls weaken, and the valves that help your blood flow properly, can become damaged.

Reversing Effects of All-Day Sitting

Now, we know that sounds scary…and it is. All-day sitting is no joke for your health.  But, don’t fear: hope is here! According to a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology, just 30 minutes of physical activity in a day can fight those awful side effects of sitting.

Researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Center studied 7999 healthy people above the age of 45. Each participant had previously joined a study which monitored their activities for a minimum of 4 days a week.

Participants were followed for five years. Researchers collected data on the amount and intensity of their physical activity during that time. What they found was very exciting: any physical activity that lasted 30 minutes lowered your risk of a shortened life by a whopping 17 %! And, if you stepped up your activity game to at least a moderate intensity, that risk was cut by 35%.

Now, this study refers to moderate exercise levels. And, if you stick with moderate exercise, that 30 minutes a day is what you’ll need. Because, according to the World Health Organization, you need 150-300 minutes of moderate exercise each week to avoid the side effects of sitting.

But here’s some good news for all our HIIT lovers out there. If you engage in high intensity exercise, you only need 75 to 100 minutes of exercise each week to fight the effects of all-day sitting! So get ready to sweat hard–as long as your doctor has cleared you for more intense exercise!

How Can Physical Activity Fight Sitting Side Effects?

Getting active boosts your cardiovascular health. It helps keep your weight in check, lowers your cholesterol, builds bone and muscle strength and even improves your mental well-being. And exercise doesn’t have to happen at the gym. Try walking or jogging outside. Hop in the pool and cool off while boosting your heart rate. Even skipping the elevator in favor of the stairs can help up your activity levels and drop your risk of vein disease, diabetes, heart attacks and more.

Compression Socks and All-Day Sitting compression socks fight all-day sitting effects

If you’re sitting at home or at a desk all day, compression socks can help prevent problems. You don’t have to wear them all the time. But even keeping them on for a few hours while you sit could help.

Why is that the case? Compression socks can stop your legs and feet from feeling tired and achy. They can stop achy muscles, as well as swelling and pain. Plus they lower your risk for varicose veins and blood clots.

How can socks make such a difference? These socks put pressure on your leg, and that increases blood flow. Because the pressure relaxes your arteries while constricting your veins, so blood gets pushed back to your heart. This also means there’s more oxygen in your leg muscles, which reduces swelling. And the amount of blood that pools in your feet.

Now wearing these socks doesn’t mean you can avoid activity. But they can certainly help you avoid complications while you must be seated. Which can take the pressure off your veins when you’re stuck on Zoom all day.

Need more help managing your vein health? That’s what we’re here for! Schedule your vein health consultation today to prevent further damage from all-day sitting!

 

Sources: British Journal of Sports Medicine, American Journal of Epidemiology, Cancer.Org

 

Are Standing Desks Good or Bad for Your Veins?

Have you thought about getting a standing desk for your home office? Did all your co-workers have them before? These days, so many nine-to-fivers are opting to switch out traditional work stations for Standing Deskstanding desks. (BTW, these are desks that can be raised or lowered. They give you the option of standing or sitting throughout the day.)

These standing desks became popular for a reason. So many people in this country struggle with their weight. And that’s partly because of their lack of activity.

That’s why many people thought standing desks were great. They could solve the problem of all-day sitting. But, unfortunately, standing desks bring individuals a whole new set of problems. Because, as it turns out, standing desks are linked  to increases in foot and back pain. They can also increase your risk of developing varicose veins. To better understand the risks of a standing desk, let’s explore the pros and cons of each desk option.

Why Sitting All Day is Dangerous

Have you heard that sitting is the new smoking? That’s right, some health experts have said that it’s worse for your health to sit all day than to smoke a pack of cigarettes. Extended periods of sitting have been linked to an increased risk of both heart and kidney disease. Not surprisingly, sitting has also been shown to increase the odds of gaining weight. And, as we already know, being overweight contributes to heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. Some researchers even suggest that increasing your exercise level won’t completely combat the effects of entire days spent sitting. That’s why people started falling for standing desks.

Danger of Standing All Day

Here’s some unwanted news. Even if you get your boss to approve a standing desk, or spring for one on your own, your health woes may not be over.  Standing desks have been known to cause back and foot pain. And that’s not all. Extended periods of standing can leave you feeling tired and less able to concentrate.

Plus, getting to the point of this blog, standing desks increase your risk of DVTs (deep vein thrombosis) and those lovely, bulging varicose veins we all love to hate. Why is that the case? Standing all day overworks your back, leg and feet muscles as you struggle to maintain one position. And, to find out why all day standing can cause spider veins, just keep reading!

Standing Leads to Spider Veins

The veins in your lower legs have to fight gravity to get your blood to flow up your body to your heart. As you age, or when you put too much pressure on those veins, they can weaken or sustain damage. That already makes it harder for blood to get moving.

As a result, blood pools in your veins and the vessels swell. This is when you usually notice spider veins.  Your varicose vein risk increases when it becomes harder for your blood to flow to your heart. Weight gain, tight clothes and—you guessed it—long periods on your feet—make it harder for blood to flow. That’s why standing desks, and jobs like construction work or nursing that keep you on your feet, make you more likely to develop spider veins.

Should you Choose a Standing Desk?

Since neither option is perfect, a standing desk is still a great choice. Because it moves up and down, you can alternate between periods of sitting and time spent standing. But how often should you switch positions?

Unfortunately, not everyone agrees on this front. Experts recommend changing positions anywhere between every 20, 30 or 60 minutes. And some get more specific about standing desks. They say you should not stand up to wor for more than 10 minutes out of every hour. You can also invest in an anti-fatigue mat to use when you’re standing up at your desk. This can help take some pressure off your lower legs and feet.

If you follow these guidelines, you can minimize your risk of standing or sitting too much. It’s also a great idea to step away from your desk for quick walking breaks throughout the day. Even small bursts of movement can help keep your blood flowing as it should.

Making the switch to a standing desk can be life changing—as long as you know the risks and take the appropriate precautions. Still with proper care, you can almost certainly enjoy this innovative office feature without the fear of destroying your vein health. And if you have concerns about sitting, standing and your vein health, come in for a diagnostic vein scan. We’ll let you know if that standing desk is a good idea or not!

Sources: The Mountaineer

4 Minimally Invasive Vein Treatments

The doctors in our practice offer minimally invasive vein treatments. But, so often, we get asked about our medical specialty: what is an interventional radiologist? At the most basic level, it means we treat medical conditions such as spider veins  and peripheral arterial disease with minimally invasive techniques.

Now, that doesn’t mean we don’t know how to perform more invasive procedures. After all, the doctors at our Houston area vein clinics attended four years of medical school. Next, they completed four-year diagnostic radiology residencies and Interventional Radiology fellowships.

So, what’s the difference between our specialty and those of other doctors? Our goal as interventional radiologists is to offer less expensive, less invasive alternatives to surgery. And our procedures come with shorter recovery periods, less pain and lower risks of complications.

But what does an interventional radiology procedure look like? Let’s take a closer look.

What is a minimally invasive vein treatment?

During an IR procedure, your interventional radiologist is guided by an image, such as that from an ultrasound. This gives us a live picture of less accessible parts of your body. Making just a small incision, we guide that image to  the remote location in your body using a catheter. And that’s why your treatments don’t require major surgical incisions!

Interventional radiology procedures include:

  • Varicose vein ablation: this out-patient procedure sends heat to malfunctioning veins. The high temperature permanently closes up the problem vein, eliminating its appearance on your skin and preventing vein disease progression.
  • Uterine fibroid embolization, a non-surgical procedure that effectively kills these tumors without an overnight hospital stay!
  • Sclerotherapy: a great option for varicose veins that don’t look great, but aren’t showing signs that you’ve got serious vein disease. Essentially, this is a great cosmetic option. With liquid sclerotherapy, we inject your veins with an FDA-approved solution. That causes spider veins to collapse and shrink, so your body reabsorbs them. You’ll need between three or four 30-minute treatments, spaced at least three weeks apart.
  • Phlembectomy … this is a surgical procedure, but it’s still minimally invasive. Basically, when your bulging veins are located right under your skin, we can use local anesthetic, then make several tiny incisions in your leg. Through those incisions, we remove your bulging vein and, because the slits were so small, you won’t need stitches and any scarring will be minimal. Plus, six months after your procedure, any marks should disappear entirely!

There are so many more ways we can address your vein health challenges without invasive surgery.  But we want you to understand why that’s such a big deal for your overall health. So please keep reading to find out why you should explore minimally invasive vein treatments.

Interventional Radiology vs. Surgery: What’s the Benefit?

As we mentioned, IR procedures hurt less than surgeries. They are less likely to leave a scar and, thanks to image guidance, are often more precise than surgical procedures.

Many times, they can be performed with no overnight hospital stays. And no hospital stay means less out-of-pocket expenses for most patients!

So, does less pain, less cost, less risk and more accuracy sounds like what you’re looking for in a vein treatment? If so, you’ve come to the right place. Simply schedule a consultation with one of our highly trained Interventional Radiologists to learn if you are a good candidate for our treatment protocols.

Sources: Radiology Info

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.

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

The Dos and Don’ts of Exercise and Varicose Veins

Let’s talk about exercise and varicose veins. We all know that exercise is good for your general health. But when vein disease gives you varicose veins, some exercises will help you, while others can hurt your condition. Usually, exercising more will make your veins bigger. That’s because they have to send all that pumping blood back to your heart. And, evidence suggests that the more you exercise, the healthier your veins will be as well. Basically, exercise gets your blood pumping, so it flows up your vein faster. That creates “shear stress” on your vein wall. Which causes vein wall cells to secrete nitric oxide. This is a chemical that preserves your vein wall health. So, for the most part, exercise is key to improving your vein health.

In certain cases, however, exercises may cause vein problems. Especially if you already have varicose veins. Want to get your veins healthy the right way? Read on for our ‘dos’ and don’ts’ of exercising with varicose veins. Please note that we recognize many readers will currently be avoiding the gym, so we’ve included recommendations for great, at-home exercise options.

The Best Exercises for Varicose Vein Sufferers

First things first: if you have vein disease, talk to your doctor before beginning any new exercise programs. (If you’re planning to start a new routine right now, we can help get you cleared in office or with a Telemedicine appointment on the secure Doxy platform.) Once you’re cleared for activity, our Houston area vein specialists recommend starting with low-impact workouts like walking, bicycling or swimming.

Why are these great choices? First of all, you can try any of these activities while following social distancing guidelines. Plus, we like vein disease sufferers to use their legs. When you do, you strengthen those muscles, making them contract harder  and helping push blood out of your legs and back up to your heart.

In other words, stronger calf muscles make for better circulation. And that means you’re likely to experience pooling blood and other complications associated with venous insufficiency.

And, in addition to circulatory benefits, you can expect to see other positive effects:  your will likely lose weight, lower your blood sugar levels and keep your blood pressure down, helping improve your vein health—and keeping the rest of your body in tip-top shape.

Varicose Vein Warnings for Cyclists

While bicycling is a good vein health exercise, be careful about extended cycling routines. Serious bicyclists are more vulnerable to a kind of varicose vein known as a perforator vein. Perforator veins take blood through your muscles to your deep veins, where it goes back up to your heart. Your legs have about 150 perforator veins, and their valves come under pressure when you bike. Why?biking exercise for varicose veins

Serious cycling puts lots of pressure on your calf muscles. It starts when you push pedals. Then, it causes huge pressure in your leg, which should cause your blood to push back to your heart. That’s why vein specialists often recommend bike riding as a good exercise for varicose veins.

Unfortunately, in some cases that pressure is too much for your valves, causing them to fail. While we don’t know exactly why this happens, studies suggest it could be a result of hunched postures or other contributing factors.

Want to prevent cycling complications? Just use caution when you bike ride. Try to practice good posture, and don’t push yourself too hard, especially if you already have varicose veins. After all, studies still suggest that your potential vein benefits outweigh the chance of popping a valve. So just proceed with caution and follow your doctor’s advice.

What Workouts Should I Avoid if I have Varicose Veins?

When you have varicose veins, some workouts might actually worsen your condition. We tell our patients to avoid exercises like lifting weights, squatting, or even some yoga poses. So now’s not the time for a new, at-home yoga routine. Without the guidance of an instructor, it will be hard to make vein-safe modifications.

Here’s why: Anything that increases pressure on your abdomen and lower body is not recommended, since it can reduce or stop the amount of blood flowing from your legs back to your heart. That, in turn, may allow blood to pool in your legs, causing your veins to stretch out and, possibly, fail.

It’s also important to know that high impact exercises, such as running and jogging, may cause your varicose veins to swell more, although wearing compression stockings and sticking to soft training surfaces can help lessen the impact of this form of exercise. But walking is always a great, lower impact option!

When Should I Treat my Varicose Veins?

Contrary to what you may have heard, varicose veins are more than just a cosmetic concern. They are a sign that something has gone seriously wrong within your circulatory system. For that reason, you should see a vein specialist as soon as you notice a vein that’s getting darker or sticking out above the profile of your skin, even if our initial consult is remote. The earlier we catch and treat varicose veins, the less likely it is that your vein disease will be able to progress. So please reach out today and request a Telemedicine or in-office visit.

Sources: 220 Triathlon, Mayo Clinic, Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine

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