Category: Health Lifestyle

Good and Bad Cholesterol, PAD and Your Veins

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

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

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

Foods to Lower Bad Cholesterol

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

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

But what fish are considered oily? Top choices include:

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

 

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

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

The Problem with Good Cholesterol

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

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

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

New Findings on Olive Oil

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

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

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

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

 

Early Warnings about High Good and Bad Cholesterol

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

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

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

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

4 Ways to Benefit from a Standing Desk

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

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

Four Ways to Make Standing Desks Work for You

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

Standing Desk Exercises to Boost Blood Flow

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

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

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

Sources: nbcnews.com

Here are 4 Foods and 1 Drink That 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 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 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 

Check Out These 3 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? We’ll take a closer look in a moment. But first, we must explain the difference between spider and varicose veins.

Spider veins vs varicose veins: What’s the difference?

People use the terms spider veins and varicose veins interchangeably. But that’s a problem, since these similar concerns have important differences. (And they impact your ultimate treatment options!)

Here’s the story: both spider and varicose veins are enlarged because of pooling blood. They develop when something goes wrong in your body, causing your valves to fail and blood to pool. But here’s the difference. Varicose veins typically develop in larger veins that sit deeper within your legs. They won’t just change color, but they’ll likely bulge under your skin, possibly looking like they’re tangled or twisted. In contrast, spider veins usually impact your legs’ smaller, superficial veins (close to the skin’s surface.) And, rather than bulging, they simply change color, their darker shade becoming the reason they’re visible on your skin.

Also, spider veins usually don’t hurt. But varicose veins are often very painful. And, while minimally invasive vein treatments can work for both conditions, they’re really best suited for spider veins. Because varicose veins may need different interventions.

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:

  • Spider vein ablation

    This out-patient procedure sends heat to your malfunctioning veins, using a small catheter that we insert to your vein. The high, controlled temperature permanently closes up the problem vein or veins. And it eliminates the appearance on your skin, while preventing vein disease progression.

  • Uterine fibroid embolization

    This is a, out-patient, in-hospital, non-surgical procedure that effectively kills these tumors without an overnight hospital stay! First, we gain access to your uterine artery through the radial artery in your wrist. (We can also begin with the femoral artery in your thigh.) Then, as with vein ablation, we insert a catheter to your artery, working towards the uterine artery and your fibroid. Finally, we insert embolic material to block blood flow to the tumor, causing it to shrink and, eventually, disappear.

  • Sclerotherapy:

    This is 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 treatment. With liquid sclerotherapy, we inject your veins with an FDA-approved solution. It’s designed to irritate the inside lumen of your spider veins. And that irritation causes spider veins to gradually collapse and shrink, so your body reabsorbs them. You’ll need between three or four 30-minute treatments, spaced at least three weeks apart. But if you have multiple varicose veins, you may require even more injections.

  • 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

Can I get Varicose Veins from Lifting Weights?

Have you been hitting the gym, and you’re worried about getting varicose veins from lifting weights? If so, this is the read for you! After all, for most of us, working out is about looking and feeling better. So you’d want to know if your workout is hurting your vein health!

And worrying about weight lifting is actually legitimate. If you’ve ever done a squat with weights, you may have  noticed that your leg veins are sticking out a bit more. So, you may be concerned that the effect might be lasting, and the beginning of a permanent problem. And that’s why we’re telling you everything you need to know about lifting weights and varicose veins.   

What Are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins are visible through your skin because of their enlarged size or darker color. These veins change color or bulge due to a build-up of excess blood, and that blood builds up because of problems with your valves.

But let’s backtrack a bit and talk about blood flow. Your veins have one important job: to carry blood from your extremities back towards your heart. When they’re working properly, the valves in your veins help blood fight gravity by closing to keep that blood from flowing back down to your legs and feet.

But when those valves aren’t working properly (a condition known as venous reflux) the blood can travel back downwards, allowing for the pooling that causes those prominent varicose veins to show up.

What Causes Venous Reflex?

A major contributing factor is genetics—if your mom or dad had varicose veins, you are more likely to experience the same problem. But other factors can play a role in vein disease. And these include advanced age, pregnancy or menopause, blood clots and obesity.

Job related hazards, like extended sitting or standing, can also contribute to this issue. Even your diet plays a role, since some unhealthy foods can impact your circulation. Plus, constipation increases your risk for varicose veins, so foods that take a toll on digestion can hurt your vein health.

And that’s not all you need to worry about. Because, as it turns out, staying in one position for too long takes a toll on your veins, too. In fact, it can lead to the same kind of blood pooling we see in people with malfunctioning valves.

Does Exercise Cause or Worsen Varicose Veins?

Here’s the good news: it doesn’t! Your veins may appear more prominent while you’re lifting weights, but it’s unlikely to be a permanent issue. In fact, regular exercise can actually decrease your chances of getting varicose veins because it helps boost your circulation.

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule: lifting very heavy weights. If you are an extreme weight lifter, you may put enough pressure on your muscles and veins to cause valve damage. But, this type of problem would take time to set it, and there are easy steps you can take to prevent exercise-related vein damage.

The first step is to use proper form when lifting heavy weights, and to work with a spotter for additional safety. It’s also important to incorporate rest days into your training schedule, and it may be worthwhile to wear compression socks during lifting sessions to help protect your veins and improve your blood flow.

Of course, if you already have varicose veins and the symptoms are causing you discomfort during workouts, you may need to discuss cutting back with your doctor. But the important thing to remember is this: working out won’t cause you to experience venous reflex; it can’t make you develop varicose veins. And as long as you discuss your training plans with your vein doctor, it may even help you manage existing issues, while lessening certain symptoms of varicose veins!

What does all that mean for you? Well, if weight lifting is part of your current or future exercise plans, don’t wait until your vein health takes a hit. Be proactive, and schedule a consultation with our Houston area vein specialists, so you can stay safe and train appropriately!

Sources: Shape Magazine

 

Move it Monday: 5 Ways to Boost Blood Flow and Stay Active Indoors

Did you know that getting exercise can boost blood flow? It’s true, which is why staying active is one easy way to prevent varicose veins from developing on your legs. And here’s why: spider veins start to form when blood pools in your veins, making them bulge and show through your skin. So, if pooling blood can leave you with bulging veins, then blood that flows well can help prevent this problem. And here’s the good news: staying active with exercise dilates your blood vessels, which in turn creates a demand for increased blood flow.

Of course, it’s not always possible to exercise in a gym, or under the supervision of a doctor or trainer. Heck, in the hot Houston summers, even a simple walk outdoors isn’t so appealing. But that doesn’t mean you can’t work activity into your daily or weekly routine. With that goal in mind, here are 5 simple ways you can work physical activity into your day without ever leaving the house. And remember, as always, check with your doctor before starting any new fitness routine!

5 Ways to Work up a Sweat in Your House

1. Catch up on laundry. Tackling those building piles of laundry is a great way to burn calories—and stress. Bonus activity points if your machine is on your top floor, and you keep working those stairs to swap loads.

2. Sweep and mop the kitchen (or your whole house, if you’re really feeling ambitious). Make the whole thing more fun (and burn bonus calories) by turning up the music and working some dance steps into your floor sweeping.

3. Cook up a storm. Did you know that standing at your stove and cooking burns around 180 calories an hour? And you can increase that burn by chopping your own veggies—heck, you may even score some bicep work!

4. Just dance. Were you inspired by that musical sweeping session? Why not take it up a notch, and just dance through as many songs as you can handle. It doesn’t matter how fast you go—it’s all about moving and having fun.

5. Use your stairs. This is another tip you’ve already started tackling with our laundry suggestion. If you’re living in a home with a staircase in the house, you have your own stair master right in the house! Walk up and down at your own pace for as long as you feel safe and comfortable.

4 More Reasons to Boost Blood Flow

Like we said, when you boost your blood flow, you’ll lower your risk for spider veins. (You may even keep existing vein damage from getting worse.) Aside from exercise, these helpful lifestyle tips can help boost blood flow. But, did you know that improving circulation does more than simply protect your vein health?

Well, it’s true! When your circulation works well, more blood reaches your muscles. That can improve your athletic performance, making it easier to stay active at home or on the go. Plus, for men, poor blood flow can be linked to erectile dysfunction. So staying on top of your circulatory health can help protect male fertility.

All of that sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? We agree. With that in mind, we invite you to give our at-home exercise tips a try. And, if poor blood flow seems to be a problem, schedule an immediate appointment with our Houston area vein specialists!

 

Sources: HealthiNation.com, klkntv.com

Here’s What Smoking Does to Arteries

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

Smoking Limits Blood Flow

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

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

Initial PAD Warning Signs

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

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

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

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

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

PAD: What Smoking Does to Arteries

Many physicians consider smoking to be the biggest PAD risk factor. Why is that? Chemicals in tobacco interfere with how blood cells function. That can affect your heart as well. And one of the first ways it does so? Making it easier for plaque to build up in your arteries. As such, about 90% of PAD patients smoked in their past.

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

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

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

Sources: Cleveland Clinic

The Link Between Infertility and Varicose Veins

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 Varicoceles 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!

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.

Treating Male Varicose Veins

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

These Jobs Can Increase Your Risk for Vein Disease

Living a healthy lifestyle—full of exercise and nourishing food—can go a long way towards protecting your vein and cardiovascular health. But what happens when your profession increases your risk for developing spider veins? You learn the facts and take action to keep your job from hurting your health! That’s why we’re sharing this important information.

Professions that Increase your Varicose Vein Risk Spider veins

Certain jobs can take a major toll on your veins, increasing the likelihood of problems. Some of the top professions include:

Teachers

Standing all day puts a lot of pressure on your veins. And many teachers stand in front of a class from 8 am until 3 pm, with very few opportunities to sit and rest. Want to minimize your risk? Take a quick trip to the teacher’s lounge and sit down, with your feet up, whenever possible.

Wait staff

Waiters and restaurant hosts stay on their feet for their entire shifts. And while waiters at least have the benefit of walking between tables and the kitchen, helping pump some of the blood out of their legs, hosts stay in one spot, greeting diners as they arrive. In order to mitigate risks, try to limit shift length and give extra attention to your feet and legs on days when you’re not on the job.

Flight attendants 

Long flights take a toll on everybody’s vein health. So, imagine flying every day AND spending the majority of that flying time on your feet, serving needy passengers. People who fly for a living need to practice vein-saving, in-flight exercises (see image at right for one example) in order to minimize their risk of complications.

Office Staff

As it turns out, sitting all day isn’t so great for your vein health, either. The effects are similar to all-day standing: blood will start to pool in your feet and legs, making your valves and veins work harder to get it back up to your heart. Taking frequent walking breaks can help mitigate the risk of sitting at your computer all day.

Lowering On-the-Job Vein Health Risks

Aside from the job-specific tips we already shared, here are some other steps you can take to minimize your risk for varicose veins:

·         Wear loose, comfortable clothing.

·         Consider compression stockings to help boost circulation in your lower extremities

·         When you do sit, avoid crossing your legs

·         Elevate your feet for at least 30 minutes, every day

·         Get regular cardiovascular exercise (it doesn’t need to be high-impact. Even walking will make a major difference!) And that’s not all! Walking is also a great way to protect your arteries. In fact, a recent study in JAMA revealed that high-intensity walking can make it easier to manage PAD symptoms like pain with walking, also called claudication. (Even if your walking program hurts when you start, sticking with it can help you walk for longer before you experience pain!)

 

What to Watch for if Your Varicose Vein Risk is Elevated

If your job puts you in a higher risk category for vein disease, you should see a vein specialist if you notice any of the following symptoms:

·         Swollen lumpy veins

·         Color changes in your veins, specifically if they appear to be dark blue or purple

·         Leg pain or legs that feel heavy

 

Of course, you don’t have to see symptoms of varicose veins in order to visit our Houston area vein clinics. If you know your risk for vein disease is already elevated, proactive vein care could go a long way towards preventing negative outcomes! So reach out to our team of specialists, and request an appointment today. From a diagnostic ultrasound to thorough physical exams and treatment recommendations, we have the tools to keep your job from damaging your vein health!

 

 

This is Why a Summer Birthday Means More than A July Birth Flower

If you’re born in spring or summer, you may know your April or July birth flower. But did you that the time of year during which you were born can actually determine the way you die?

Yes, that’s scary…but true! And, more specifically, your birth month is directly linked to your odds of dying from heart disease! Want to know the worst birth months for heart health? Just keep reading!

Spring and Summer: The Seasons of Heart Disease

In a study published in The BMJ, researchers discovered that heart disease is more likely to kill you if you’re born between April and September, the spring and summer months.

Unfortunately, scientists can’t say exactly why these birth months increase your risk. But they do suggest that there’s a connection between your birth month, and your early exposure to seasonal dietary changes, available sunlight and air quality.

To reach these conclusions, they followed 116,911 women who were recruited for the study, and between the ages of 30 and 55 in 1976. Researchers examined the timing of their births, overall causes of death, and deaths caused specifically by heart disease.  Every two years, ending in 2014, the women completed health and lifestyle questionnaires.

By the end of the study period, over 43,000 of the women had died. And 8,360 of those women died of issues related to heart disease. While that figure may not seem so surprising, here’s what is: spring and summer babies were significantly more likely to have that cause of death when compared to their peers who were born in the fall. Still, without a direct causal link, the scientists warn us that this study is observation only. After all, they can’t completely rule out other, unmeasured factors that may contribute to the increased risk.  Still, if your birthday falls in this range—or even if it doesn’t—it’s important to learn the early warning signs of heart disease, so you can seek treatment at the first sign of a problem.

These are the Warning Signs for Heart Disease

Whether you have an April or July birth flower, and regardless of your risk for cardiovascular disease, you should never ignore these tell-tale symptoms. Especially if they are sudden and unexplained:

1. Chest pain

2. Stomach pain

3. Sweating

4. Leg pain, especially when cramps appear with movement. This could be an early sign of of PAD (peripheral arterial disease).

5. Arm pain

6. Swollen ankles (edema), which can indicate circulatory problems or even heart failure.

7. Chronic exhaustion

Treatment Options for Symptom

Luckily for all our July birth flowers out there, we can treat many of these early warning signs of heart disease. When it comes to PAD, our minimally invasive treatments, including angioplasty and atherectomy, can help return blood flow to your outer limbs. In turn, this should boost your overall circulation, and could even reduce your risk for progressive heart disease.

Got edema? We’ve got solutions. First, the FDA recently approved a new edema medication, known as Soaanz. It’s meant for patients who have heart failure and/or kidney disease. So, if you’re not there yet, you may prefer this easy lifestyle solution for leg swelling: eat more zucchini!

It’s simple, but effective for minor cases of edema. Because this veggies has water contents between 90 and 95%, it can help you stay hydrated. And, while you may think adding more water to your body will make your swelling worse, the opposite is true. Because, when you add extra hydration to your system, your body may relax its hold on other water sources. Which could help ease water retention and swelling.

Remember, on their own, any one of these symptoms should be a sign that it’s time to discuss your heart with a healthcare provider. But, in combination, consider these symptoms a potential emergency. Seek medical attention right away. And, if you’re noticing early warning signs of PAD or other symptoms of vein disease, schedule an immediate consultation with our team of Houston vein specialists!

 

 

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