Category: Health Lifestyle

Eat This: Zinc, Vitamin B, and Food for Vein Health

Did you know that your diet should include important nutrients and food for vein health? During this COVID-19 outbreak, we’ve been hearing a lot more about the importance of Zinc in your diet.  This is what we know: zinc is a trace element which your immune systems needs to function properly. In fact, zinc is considered a type 2 nutrient because it’s a necessary part of your body’s general metabolism (other type 2 nutrients include protein and magnesium.) So, if you have a zinc deficiency, you’ll be at a higher risk for infections, diseases and viruses like COVID-19.

But supporting immunity isn’t zinc’s only important job. In fact, this little element plays many roles in your body. And a little of it goes a long way: your recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for zinc is 8 milligrams (mg) a day for women and 11 mg a day for men.

It’s entirely possible to get your daily zinc dose from your diet (more on that shortly.) Otherwise, talk to your doctor about starting a zinc supplement.

Still waiting to be sold on zinc? Let’s take a closer look at two of its numerous function: supporting immunity and wound healing.

How Does Zinc Regulate Immunity?

Without zinc, our body can’t activate its T lymphocytes (T cells). And we need those T cells for two jobs: controlling and regulating our body’s immune response, and attacking cells that are infected or even cancerous.

What does that all mean for you? If you don’t get enough zinc, your immune system just won’t work the way it should. In fact, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reveals, “zinc-deficient persons experience increased susceptibility to a variety of pathogens.”

Now, those pathogens range from severe infections to conditions like a common cold. Which is why, according to a study published in the Open Respiratory Medicine Journal, zinc supplementation could shorten your cold experience by as much as 40%. Plus, it could make your symptoms less severe while you’re still under the weather. It’s not so surprising, then, that zinc can also help your body heal leg ulcers, a common symptom of vein disease.

How Zinc Helps Heal Your Wounds

Before we explain why zinc can help heal your leg ulcers, let’s review why you might develop this kind of wound. When you have chronic vein problems, you may develop non-healing ulcers or open sores on your lower legs. Also called venous ulcers, they usually develop around your ankle, varying in size from very small to several inches in diameter.

What’s the connection between these two issues? Chronic vein disease causes a progressive inflammatory reaction in your body, and that damages your capillaries and lymphatic ducts. After that damage, fluid leaks into the tissues of your lower legs, causing swelling and depositing hemoglobin in your lower leg tissue.

But that’s not all—capillary damage also decreases your lower leg’s oxygen levels, which translates to poor wound healing and ulcers.

We treat venous ulcers with compression therapy and wound care, while also treating your underlying vein condition. And now we know that zinc could help speed up your healing. Why?

One of zinc’s jobs is to maintain your skin’s health. In fact, you may be more susceptible to leg ulcers if you have a zinc deficiency.  As such, some studies suggest that applying zinc to your wounds could help speed healing, but further research is required before this becomes our primary treatment protocol.

How Can I Add Zinc to my Diet Naturally?

Beans, animal proteins, nuts, fish and seafood are all good sources of zinc. You can also get zinc from whole grain cereals, and dairy products. Top choices for zinc include fortified cereals, Pacific raw oysters, canned baked beans, cooked green peas, yogurt, pecans, lean ground beef and roasted peanuts.

Luckily, you’ve got lots of tasty ways to get your recommended daily zinc intake from diet alone. If, however, you feel you may have a zinc insufficiency, you may consider supplementation. Zinc supplements come in capsule and tablet form.

Keep in mind, however, that too much zinc can also cause problems in your body. So talk to your doctor before adding any new supplements to your diet. And, if you’re dealing with a leg ulcer right now, don’t delay treatment—regardless of the COVID-19 outbreak, you must stick with your follow up ulcer appointments. Failure to do so could even result in amputation!

Other Nutrients and Food for Vein Health

Now you’ve seen how zinc can help your veins–and COVID 19. But there are other important nutrients you should add to your diet, in order to boost circulation and protect your vascular system. Here are some of the top choices:

Vitamin B

The family of B vitamins can do great things for your vascular health. If you have varicose veins, taking B6 can help them heal. Vitamin B12 improves blood flow, and B3 can lower cholesterol while boosting circulation.

Vitamin B6 can restore vein health, making it a good choice for varicose vein sufferers. Vitamins B6 and B12 promote healthy blood flow. Vitamin B3, or niacin, aids in blood circulation and lowering blood cholesterol.

What to eat: Brown rice, wheat, barley, turkey and tuna.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C can preserve flexibility in your vein walls, and reduce arterial inflammation.

What to eat: berries, broccoli, spinach, potatoes, tomatoes, oranges, and lemons.

Vitamin K

This nutrient for vein health can help you prevent blood clots! At the same time, deficiencies with this vitamin can lead to excessive bleeding, so it’s important to watch your intake carefully. This vitamin can also keep blood from pooling, which will reduce your risk for varicose veins. And, you need k2 vitamins to keep elastin from calcifying, which would further increase your varicose vein risk.

What to eat: parsley, mustard seeds, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and pumpkin.

Vitamin D

Your veins and arteries need this nutrient to stay relaxed and keep blood flowing freely. If your Vitamin D levels dip too low, your risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) rises dramatically.

What to eat: oily fish, red meat, liver, egg yolks, and fortified breakfast cereals.

Foods that Prevent DVT

While the previous nutrients can boost overall vein health, the following suggestions can improve your blood flow and prevent dangerous blood clots, including deep vein thrombosis (DVT.)

First, make sure to stay hydrated with plenty of fluids, since dehydration reduces blood flow. To stay safe, the American heart association suggests that women take in 91 oz of fluid daily (fluid from food is included,) And men should aim for 125 oz. (Score bonus points by including some red wine or grape juice in that mix, since research shows the polyphenols they contain can make your blood less prone to clotting.)

Now, try adding more garlic to your diet, since this flavorful staple seems to help break up clusters of blood platelets before they form clots. Finally, add leafy greens and olive oil, and cut back on sugar, saturated fats and highly processed foods, and you’ll be well on your way to preventing DVT!

Need even more help preserving your vein and arterial health? That’s what we’re here for! Schedule an appointment with our Houston area vein specialists today. We can get a better picture of your current risk factors, and help you with diet and lifestyle changes to treat any existing issues.

 

 

 

Sources: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Open Respiratory Medicine Journal

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, called atherosclerosis, then leads to conditions like peripheral arterial disease (PAD), and the fluid retention of edema. 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. Furthermore, it increases the risk of hypertension, or high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.

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

Foods to Lower Bad Cholesterol

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

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

But what fish are considered oily? Top choices include:

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

 

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

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

The Problem with Good Cholesterol

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

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

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

New Findings on Olive Oil

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

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

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

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

 

Early Warnings about High Good and Bad Cholesterol

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

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

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

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

Male Infertility and Varicocele: What’s The Link

Struggling with male infertility? Read this! Did you know that varicose veins are not just a problem that appears in your legs? As it turns out, varicose veins can develop in other sensitive areas of the body. And for men, one especially vulnerable area is in the testicles.

Yes, you read that correctly: about one in seven men has varicocele, varicose veins in the testicles. It’s a condition where valves in the veins leading into the testicles fail, allowing blood to back up, just as it does with varicose leg veins. Though it’s a mostly harmless condition,  varicoceles can be linked to male infertility. And, this condition can also cause aching when you run, because exercise increases your blood flow, while gravity adds extra pressure to your sensitive parts.

Plus, with varicose veins, your risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) increases. And having a history of DVT can impact your risk for other intimate concerns. Which includes Penile Mondor Disease, a condition that leads to blood clots in the superficial veins of your penis.

How do Varicocele Affect Fertility? varicocele and male infertility consult

As we mentioned, a varicocele is an enlargement of your scrotal veins  (that’s the loose pouch of skin that holds your testicles). When working properly, your veins operate with one-way valves that help blood to flow out of your testicles and scrotum and back up to your heart. But, when those valves aren’t doing their job, blood pools in your veins, making them stretch and bulge. This is true whether it happens in your legs veins or in more private parts of your body.

Now, remember: enlarged veins aren’t just a cosmetic problem. As blood build up in your veins, internal pressure and temperature can also increase. And that’s where your fertility could be threatened: extra pressure and heat in this sensitive part of your body could damage your testicles. That could lead to decreased sperm production, and poor sperm quality, both of which could impact male fertility.

Varicoceles Symptoms

With this type of varicose vein, you may experience unwanted symptoms other than challenges to your fertility. Your scrotum could get swollen or tender. The area may feel heavier than usual, or like it’s dragging from your body. Also, your veins may become dilated or spaghetti like. And the side of your scrotum with varicocele may appear smaller, due to changes in your blood flow.

If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek a diagnosis. Your healthcare provider can likely diagnose this vein problem with a physical testicular exam. Then, if varicose veins in your scrotum are the problem, you’ll get treatment and lifestyle recommendations. And those should include ways you can stay active while dealing with varicocele. (Or any type of vein disease!)

Staying Active With Varicose Veins

Exercise is always a good idea for improving blood flow and fighting vein disease. In order to keep exercise from causing or worsening varicoceles, male runners need to be very careful when selecting underwear for their runs. First and foremost, boxers are a no-go for male runners: you need underwear that has some built in support. For this purpose, a close-fitting pair of boxer briefs may be your best bet.

Another way to ensure sufficient support? Try the layered approach. Wear two pairs of underwear beneath your running shorts or pants, to create a more protective hold while you pound the pavement. You may also want to consider sport-specific underwear, since specially designed shorts will eliminate other potential irritants like sweat or painful seaming.

Of course, too much of a good thing can be a problem too. Choose underwear that’s too tight, and you run the risk of cutting off testicular blood flow, which can also be problematic. You want to shoot for the Goldilocks compromise in this type of situation: test out several styles of shorts, and opt for the one that’s not too loose and not too tight. Chances are, the one that’s “just right” will also be the pair that best protects you from testicular varicose veins!

Male Infertility: Other Concerns with Veins in the Penis

While rare, some men develop inflammation in their penile veins, triggering a condition called Penile Mondor Disease (PMD). That inflammation raises your risk for blood clots. And it can also cause pain or swelling in the area.

Usually, your genetics play a role in your PMD risk level. But trauma to the area (like with a sports injury) or vigorous or extended sexual encounters also up your risk. If you have PMD, your first symptom will likely be hardening of the vein on top of your penis. (This should occur between 24-48 hours after the troubling incident.) The skin may also turn red, edema may develop, and you may experience throbbing pain, especially with an erection. If you have PMD, urinating may also be painful or difficult.

We can usually diagnose PMD with a physical exam, but in some cases you’ll need an ultrasound as well. In most cases, PMD clears up on its own. So your treatment will involve support for your pain and inflammation. But, for some men, this condition becomes a recurring problem. And, in those cases, you may need to treat your problematic vein. Just like you would with varicoceles.

Varicocele Treatment in Houston, TX

Fortunately, you can treat varicocele and protect your fertility. As interventional radiologists, we treat these varicose veins using a minimally invasive varicocele embolization. First, we make tiny incision in your groin. Next, we’ll insert a thin catheter through your vein, directing it toward the varicoceles. We may use X-ray dye to better see your veins, so we can target treatment. Finally, once we’ve pinpointed your varicoceles, we’ll inject tiny coils into the catheter, stopping blood flow to varicoceles and alleviating pressure to the area.

Of course, we understand that treating sensitive areas can be scary. But here’s the best news: during our minimally invasive treatment process, you be awake, but you won’t be in pain. Once the procedure is complete, we’ll carefully observe your recovery process for several hours. Then, in most cases, we can send you home on the same day as your treatment!

Have you noticed bulging veins in your scrotum? Or do you have a throbbing ache in your pelvic region? Are you and your partner struggling to conceive? Come in for a diagnostic vein exam. We can help determine if varicocele are contributing to your male infertility.

Sources: Society of Interventional Radiology

Move It Monday: Benefits of Walking Workouts

Are you ready to embrace the benefits of walking? We know that maintaining a regular (physician approved) exercise program can help you slow the progression of vein disease, while also lowering your risk of experiencing associated complications, but we also know that it can be tough to get started.

Frequent exercise, like taking walks, can help manage the pain of PAD

To help you get motivated, our Texas Endovascular Team regularly shares Move it Monday fitness inspiration! If you like it what you see, incorporate the workout in to your routine! Not your jam? Come back another time for more motivation!

On the schedule this week: A Beginner’s Walking Schedule, courtesy of VeryWellFit.com: Before beginning, check your posture to make sure your chin is up, you’re standing straight, and you’re not leaning forward or backward while you move. Walk at an easy pace for a few minutes before speeding up. Wear supportive shoes and comfy clothing. You can do your walking outdoors, indoors, or on a treadmill.

The Right Way to Begin a Walking Workout Program

In order to enjoy some of the benefits of walking, you actually have to get your body moving! Here’s a four-week plan for moving more and helping your body enjoy the results.

Week 1: Start with a daily 15-minute walk at an easy pace. Walk five days the first week. You want to build a habit, so consistency is important. Spread out your rest days, such as making day 3 a rest day and day 6 a rest day.

Weekly total goal: 60 to 75 minutes.

Week 2: Add five minutes a day so you are walking for 20 minutes, five days a week. Or, you may wish to extend yourself more on some days, followed by a rest day.

Weekly total goal: 75 to 100 minutes.

Week 3: Add five minutes a day so you are walking for 25 minutes, five days a week.

Weekly total goal: 100 to 125 minutes.

Week 4: Add five minutes a day to walk for 30 minutes, five days a week.

Weekly total goal: 125 to 150 minutes.

Snags: If you find any week to be difficult, repeat that week rather than adding more time. Do this until you are able to progress comfortably.

Walking for the Elderly: a Perfect Choice

Taking a walk is a great movement choice for everyone. But recent findings, presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress, showed why it’s even more important for older adults. Basically, they found that just one hour of walking a week reduces the risk of any form of death by 40%, for adults over the age of 85.

Here’s what we learned. Researchers followed more than 7,000 over the age of 85 who joined the Korean National Health Screening Program. And even those who walked slowly, for at least 1 hour per week, enjoyed that 40% reduced risk for all-cause mortality. Plus, they reduced their risk of cardiovascular mortality by 39%, compared to adults who remained inactive. As a result, study author Moo-Nyun Jin, MD concluded, “Walking was linked with a lower likelihood of dying in older adults.” And you can get those benefits whether you move slowly or vigorously.

Benefits of Walking: Improve Your PAD Symptoms

Low impact workouts are a great choice for any one looking to increase your activity level. But, as vein specialists, we especially recommend walking to our PAD patients. That’s because PAD pain often pops up when you walk, making this simple-yet-crucial task very difficult.

Why is walking so hard when you have PAD? It’s because of atherosclerosis, which is when plaque builds up in your leg arteries. This plaque blocks oxygen and nutrients from getting to your legs when they fire up to get you moving. So, when you have PAD and you start moving, you may experience the pain of that oxygen deprivation.

But, even though PAD makes walking hurt, that very movement can help you manage PAD symptoms. The more you walk, the better your muscles learn to adapt to their limited blood supply. And, as your muscles adapt, you’ll be able to walk for longer periods before that PAD pain pops up and slows you down. angioplasty for PAD

That’s why walking programs like the one we just introduced can be helpful for PAD patients, helping improve your muscle strength as well as your ability to balance and complete your daily tasks. Also, as your calf muscles get stronger, your circulation may improve. And, if you dramatically improve your lifestyle habits as you embrace more movement, you may stop PAD progression as you research more permanent treatment options. (See the image at right for one PAD treatment option.)

New Walking App for PAD Patients

Recently, a team of researchers from Hospital de Santo António in Porto, Portugal developed a mobile app to help PAD patients enjoy the benefits of walking. Called WalkingPad, the new app allows physicians to import walking prescriptions for their patients, and track the walks they take.

It’s designed for use in the patient’s home environment. Dr. Ivone Silva, one of the physicians at the developing hospital, explains that it offers a “participatory physical exercise program, carried out in a family environment. It is therefore more attractive, personalized, effective and of very low cost and risk when compared to a rehabilitation program carried out in the hospital.”

While the app is in its early stages of development, the developers hope to evolve the technology into a complete monitoring system for PAD patients. In the future, they hope it can function as a medical device that’s able to analyze patients’ walking patterns using artificial intelligence.

But, for now, it’s simply about putting in the work and sticking to your walking program. Of course, your walking results won’t be instant: you may need to stick to the program for as long as three months before seeing symptom improvements. Now, as always, check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise programs. If you have any questions about your ability to exercise with an endovascular condition, come in to our offices for a consultation with our Houston area vein specialists, Dr. Fox, Dr. Hardee and Dr. Valenson.

 

Sources: www.verywellfit.com, Cardiosmart.org

Here’s the Lowdown on Stress and Varicose Veins

Stress is a part of our daily lives. And, as you probably know already, stress can take a toll on many different aspects of our health. But have you ever wondered whether stress can affect your vein health? As it turns out, the answer isn’t so black and white. Let’s take a closer look.

The Effect of Stress on Your Body

One of the first physical symptoms of stress is a rise in your blood pressure. If stress becomes chronic, and your blood pressure remains elevated, the unusual pressure can weaken your blood vessels. When blood vessels are weak, your circulation gets worse, allowing blood to pool in your veins. And when blood pools in your veins, they become dark and bulge out—and, voila, you start to notice varicose veins!

Don’t think that stress adds up? Consider this statistic. So many adults today face chronic stress. As a result, it’s almost not surprising that estimates suggest over 30% of adults suffer from this condition.

Now, that’s one way in which stress can impact your vein health. But, wait…there’s more. Have you ever heard of the expression stress eating? It was coined because people tend to make poor dietary choices when they are under stress. Over time, those poor choices can lead to weight gain. Plus, stress hormones—namely, cortisol—increase your blood sugar levels, which can impact your hunger levels, making weight gain and obesity even more likely. And obesity increases your risk of developing varicose veins because added weight puts added pressure on your veins. Additionally, if you are extremely obese, it may be harder to see your legs. So, if varicose veins develop and go unnoticed, they may worsen and progress to the point where serious complications like leg ulcers develop.

Fighting Stress and Varicose Veins with Movement leg exercise

Stress leads to weight gain, as we’ve just shown, and exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight. Even 30 minutes a day of walking can help keep the pounds off, protecting your vein health in the process. But that’s not all—exercise can improve circulation, fighting off additional side effects of stress. And, exercise releases feel-good endorphins, which work as nice counterbalances to stress-related cortisol.

In short, stress takes a toll on your well-being, from your mental health down to your veins. And one great solution to all these problems? Exercise! Need inspiration for stepping up your workout routines? Follow our #MoveitMonday series here on the blog, and check out our movement board on Pinterest!

Need Help for PAD: Try these 4 Foods and 2 Drinks

Need 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 cocoa offers 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 K2 can 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.

Adding Spinach to the Mix  spinach lowers PAD risk

Want to really kick PAD to the curb? A brand new study reveals that eating one cup of spinach a day lowers your PAD risk by 26%! This power green helps in several ways. But their most important job seems to be lowering blood pressure.

As a result, just a few leaves a day also reduces stiffness in your arteries. (Which is likely why it helps lower PAD risk.) And it also means you’re less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke. All of which is great news, as far as we’re concerned!

Fighting PAD Symptoms in and with 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.

So, getting in the water can help reduce your disease risk. But drinking water–at least 8 glasses per day–can further reduce your risk. How? Staying well hydrated is a great way to lower your blood pressure. And lowering blood pressure to a healthy range reduces your risk for all forms of CVD, including PAD.

Find it hard to swallow all that H20? Consider giving cranberry juice a try! In addition to helping you stay hydrated, cranberry juice is also packed with vitamin c. And that vitamin c can improve blood flow, again reducing your peripheral arterial disease risk factors.

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 

9 Ways to Prevent Flying and Blood Clots

Are you worried about flying with varicose veins? That’s perfectly natural, but we’re here to help. 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. (Long road trips could also spell trouble.)

And both of these travel modes are especially risky 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. So, if you choose to fly, or even if you’re stuck sitting for a long drive, follow these eight 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. These garments offer outside pressure that helps your veins fight gravity and get pooling blood moving. Plus, they can help get your calf muscles pumping harder, making it easier for blood to get out of your legs and feet and up to your heart.

Remember compression levels, come in a range of pressure levels. (They’re measured in mmHg, similar to your blood pressure.) Before you travel, 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. Get a Leg Up

Stuck in the terminal during yet another flight delay? Or able to contort your body a bit in your seat? Try elevating your feet to get blood flowing out of your feet and legs and up to your heart. Use your carryon luggage, or even the seat-back tray as a prob, and get those feet above your heart whenever you get the chance.

4. 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.

5. When in doubt, flex your feet

You don’t have to get up to protect your veins during travel. Instead, you can flex your feet while seated–that will help keep up your circulation. To get the benefits, just pull your toes back towards your body. Hold for 10 seconds, then point your toes for another 10 seconds. Switch feet back and forth a few times, and you’ll get some of the benefits of the mid-flight exercises we just reviewed. Without disturbing your seat mate or getting any strange looks.

6. Look for Leg Room

While it costs more, upgrading your seat to enjoy a little legroom 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.

7. 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.)

8. Pick Safe Travel Outfits baggy clothing flying with varicose veins

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.

9. 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

 

How to Improve Circulation and 6 Signs You Need 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 to Improve 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.

Adding stretching to your routine can also help! Stretching out different areas of your body helps send blood to your various muscle groups, so start your day with a five-minute stretch session, or build quick stretch breaks into your day.

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. Other foods that can improve circulation include garlic, ginger, turmeric, fatty fish and raw, dark chocolate. But 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 avoid tight clothing such as Spanx or skinny jeans. Additionally, you may want to begin 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 associated 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

Lower Blood Pressure with these 5 Foods

Are you looking to lower blood pressure? If so, that’s a great idea. Because high blood pressure (hypertension) is a major problem. It puts you at risk for all sorts of other health conditions, including venous insufficiency, heart attack and stroke. So, obviously, it’s important to maintain a healthy blood pressure level. And, according to a new study,  your diet can make it harder to get your blood pressure back in a healthy zone, if you aren’t careful.

Gut Bacteria Impacts Pressure Levels

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 47% of American adults have high blood pressure. But only 24% of them have it under control. And part of that is because prescribed medications don’t work for everyone.

Recently, a study in Experimental Biology revealed that bacteria in your gut could make it harder to regulate your pressure levels. In fact, they found that one common bacteria interfered with a class of blood pressure medications known as ACE inhibitors. The reason? It seemed to break down the medication, allowing less active ingredients to enter your bloodstream.

Now, this was just an animal study, with research still in its early stages. But, for now, it seems like altering your gut bacterial health could help. Or at least reduce your resistance to medications. And there’s one group of foods that can help you do that: the ones that are packed with probiotics.

Probiotic Foods lower blood pressure with probiotics

You probably already know that probiotics (live, good-for-you, bacteria) can help your gut and digestion. But did you also know that eating probiotics can help regulate your pressure levels? Yup, that’s right!

According to research conducted at the Griffith Health Institute and School of Medicine in Australia, consuming probiotic-packed foods (not just supplements) can help. Some of the best food sources for probiotics include these 5 foods to lower your pressure:

  1. Yogurt
  2. Tempeh
  3. Sauerkraut
  4. Kimchi
  5. Kefir

Other Boosts to Consider

Not a fan of probiotics? No problem! You can also take control of your health by adding other staples of a vein-healthy diet. Some favorite choices to battle high blood pressure include whole grains, leafy greens, plant-based proteins and lean meats, fish and poultry.

When added to your diet, these choices will help maintain a healthy weight. And they can help control your blood pressure. So, in combination, they’re a great choice to protect your vein health. All that’s left to do is add in a few probiotics, and you should be in great shape. But why do these foods work well? Let’s explore that connection next.

The Connection Between Diet and Blood Pressure

So, how did researchers find the connection between food and blood pressure? To reach these findings, Dr. Jing Sun and his team analyzed 543 people with normal or high blood pressure. Next, they pored over studies that addressed the participant’s probiotic consumption.

And here’s what they found. Some of the adults consumed probiotics daily for eight weeks or more. After, they had significantly lower systolic (pressure in the arteries when the heart beats) and diastolic (pressure in the arteries between heartbeats) blood pressure compared with those who didn’t eat probiotic-rich food.

Given the negative effects of high blood pressure, adding probiotic foods to your diet should be a no-brainer. After all, it’s one of the few, drug-free methods out there to help take control of your blood pressure and stave off vein disease.

Foods to Avoid with High Blood Pressure

While some foods can reduce pressure, others do the opposite. So, if you’re already worried about your levels,  steer clear of foods that might raise them. And the foods to avoid with high blood pressure come in seven main categories:

  1. Salty foods
  2. Sugary foods and drinks
  3. Red meats and saturated fats
  4. Alcohol
  5. Processed foods
  6. Condiments
  7. Excessive caffeine

A Word on Heart Attack Prevention and Daily Aspirin Use

Now many people want to lower blood pressure to prevent a heart attack. And they may also take daily aspirin to reduce their risk. But recently, The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) changed its guidelines about daily aspirin use. Now, they warn that taking daily aspirin if you’ve never had a stroke or heart attack could lead to internal bleeding. Also, they don’t recommend starting this routine if you’re over 60. Plus, if you already have PAD, a cardiac stent, or you’ve had a heart attack or stroke, you must speak to your doctor before beginning this regimen.

Are you worried that hypertension could increase your risk for PAD and vein disease? Do you need help getting your range back in the healthy level? And would you like to do so as naturally as possible? We’re here to help you understand your PAD risk while avoiding complications. So reach out to our team of Houston area vein specialists and schedule a consultation today!

 

Sources: Medical News Today

Can Lymphedema Exercises for Legs Help Me?

Are you wondering if there are lymphedema exercises for legs that will relieve swelling? We don’t blame you! After all, 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!

Lymphedema Exercises for Legs to Prevent Ulcers

As long as your doctor has cleared you for physical activity, certain forms of lymphedema exercises for legs 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.
  • If you already have lymphedema, swimming is an excellent choice. It works because you’re horizontal and in constant motion, without impact on your legs.
  • Riding a recumbent bike is also a good choice because you’ll keep your legs slightly elevated and in motion. But you’ll do so with little impact on your lower body.

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 

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