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Category: Health Lifestyle

These are the best (And Worst) Exercises if you have Varicose Veins

In general, exercising is good for your health. But when vein disease gives you  varicose veins, some exercises can hurt your condition. Read on for our ‘dos’ and don’ts’ of exercising with varicose veins.

The Best Exercises for Varicose Vein Sufferers

First things first: if you have vein disease, talk to your doctor before beginning any new exercise programs. Once you’re cleared for activity, our Houston area vein specialists recommend starting with low-impact workouts like walking, bicycling or swimming.

Why are these great choices? We like vein disease sufferers to use their legs. When you do, you strengthen those muscles, making them contract harder  and helping push blood out of your legs and back up to your heart.

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

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

What Workouts Should I Avoid if I have Varicose Veins?

When you have varicose veins, some workouts might actually worsen your condition. We tell our patients to avoid exercises that like lifting weights, squatting, or even some yoga poses. Anything that increases pressure on your abdomen and lower body is not recommended, since it can reduce or stop the amount of blood flowing from your legs back to your heart. That, in turn, may allow blood to pool in your legs, causing your veins to stretch out and, possibly, fail.

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

When Should I Treat my Varicose Veins?

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

 

DVT and Pregnancy: What You Need to Know

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

Many factors can elevate your risk of DVT, including long plane flights, surgery and your age. But for this post, we’re going to look at the connection between pregnancy and your risk for DVT. When you are pregnant, the blood-clotting factors in your body fluctuate, making clotting more likely. In fact, most pregnant women have a DVT rate that is five-times higher than when they are not expecting. And this elevated risk is a very big deal: DVT is one of the leading killers for pregnant women; your DVT risk is highest in your third trimester and for the first week after delivering your baby.

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

 

Managing Your DVT Risk During Pregnancy

If you already had a history of blood clots before getting pregnant, your doctor may suggest taking blood thinners while you are expecting. But if you are an otherwise-healthy woman, making smart lifestyle choices during pregnancy can help manage your risk for DVT. Following a healthy diet, and preventing gestational diabetes, can help lower your DVT risk, since being overweight can also increase your likelihood for DVT. Sticking to a regular, doctor-approved exercise program can also help lower your risk for DVT. Of course, there are never guarantees when it comes to clot prevention. So, if you are pregnant and concerned about clotting, we invite you to discuss your DVT risk with one of our Houston-area vein specialists!

 

 

What is Interventional Radiology?

So often, we get asked about our medical specialty: what does it mean to be an interventional radiologist? At the most basic level, it means we provide treat a range of medical conditions, from spider veins to peripheral arterial disease, and more, with minimally invasive techniques.

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.

Our goal as interventional radiologists is to offer less expensive, less invasive alternative to surgery. And our procedures come with shorter recovery periods, less pain and lower risks of complications.

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

How does an IR procedure work?

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:

And so much more!

 

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.

Will High Heels Give me Spider Veins?

So many women have closets packed with high heels. Let’s face it, stilettos can be great–they make your legs look longer, they give you extra inches, and they add a stylish finish to almost any outfit.

That’s the good news about high heels…but here’s the not-so-good news. While wearing high heels won’t directly cause you to develop varicose veins, they can contribute to this problem by affecting blood flow in your veins. And, not surprisingly, the higher the heels, the bigger the negative impact on your vein health.

What Are Varicose Veins?

To understand the connection between high heels and varicose veins, we must first understand this problem and why it happens.

Over 25 million Americans have varicose veins. Some people will recognize the problem right away, thanks to visible symptoms like bulging veins or brightly colored veins that are visible on the skin’s surface.

Some symptoms of varicose veins are less obvious:  heaviness, aching, swelling, tiredness, burning, stinging, and leg cramps are all signs that you may have a problem. Other symptoms, like swollen legs, changes in your skin and even ulcers are also symptoms of spider veins, but they can often be mistaken for other conditions.

Varicose veins are a faulty part of the venous system, which is just a group of pipes, pumps, and valves in your body. Veins are ‘pipes’ for blood. Valves are like stop signs that keep the blood flowing in the right direction–either up to your heart or away from your heart to your other body parts.

When any part of your venous system stops doing its job properly, blood can begin to pool in your veins, causing them to stretch and bulge. That’s when you may notice symptoms of varicose veins.

High Heels and Blood Flow

When you walk, blood starts pumping in your foot and calf. Blood starts moving up the veins in your legs. Valves help that blood fight gravity and keep flowing up towards your heart.

Of course, that’s the case when your’re walking normally.  When you stride wearing basic, supportive shoes, your foot and calf work together. Veins in your foot fill it with blood as it lifts off the floor. When your heel and arch land back on the floor, that blood starts flowing into the relaxed veins in your calf. Once there, your calf muscles get to work, pushing blood into the deep veins in your legs.

High heels are a game changer in this system because of the way they affect your stride. When you’re rocking those three-inch stilettos, your heel never touches the ground. All your weight stays in your toes and the balls of your feet. Plus, because of the angle of your body, your calf muscles never get the chance to relax when you’re in heels.

The result of these stride changes is fairly significant. Your foot gets less filled with blood; your calf muscles are less effective when they try to pump blood up to your heart. The decreased pump strength can leave some blood behind in your legs, allowing it to build up and pool in your veins. When this happens, your vein health may suffer.

Preventing Spider Veins 

While no one expects you to give up high heels completely, there are steps you can take to limit the damage to your veins:

  1. Save those stilettos for short events and special occasions.
  2. Stick to heels that are no more than three inches (and shorter is even better).
  3. If you’re going to be in heels for a while, consider throwing on a pair of compression stockings.
  4. Strengthen your calf muscles once the heels come off by sneaking in a few sets of heel raises.
  5. Check in with your Houston vein specialist if you start noticing any of the spider vein symptoms we discussed above.

 

While high heels don’t directly cause spider veins, they may create an environment that compromises your overall vein health. If you already have spider veins, or have a family history of vein disease, keeping a close watch on your shoe closet is a very good idea.

 

Sources: New York Times

These are 4 Reasons Why Your Legs Cramp

Deep Vein Thrombosis
Leg cramps could be a sign of serious medical conditions: don’t ignore this painful problem!

Leg cramps: they’re painful and annoying. But did you know they could be more than just a nuisance? Yes, that’s right! Leg cramps are often a symptom of a more serious medical condition. Here are four health problems that could be causing you to experience leg cramps:

What’s the Cause of My Leg Cramps?

  1. Serious Disease
    Certain vein diseases can cause you to experience leg cramps. Two likely causes are varicose veins (incompetent veins that have started to swell) or chronic venous insufficiency (CVI, a condition in which your valves don’t work the way they’re supposed to, so some of your blood flows down into your legs instead of upwards to return to your heart). Cardiac diseases and degenerative disc conditions may also cause you to experience leg cramps.
  2. Dehydration
    Leg cramps can also be caused by dehydration, which can occur for several different reasons: not enough water intake in warm weather; certain dehydrating beverages like coffee and black tea, or certain medications with diuretic effects. Kidney conditions may also affect your ability to remain hydrated.
  3. Thyroid Irregularities
    When your thyroid is functioning too slowly (hypothyroidism), you may experience several symptoms, including fatigue, weight gain, cold intolerance, difficulties thinking clearly and cramps in your muscles, especially in your legs.
  4. Vitamin Deficiencies
    Leg cramps can also be the result of a magnesium, potassium or calcium deficiency in your body. The cramps may be experienced in your  toes, calves, the arches of your feet, and/or the backs of your legs. Many pregnant women will experience vitamin deficiencies, and pregnant women are also more vulnerable to vein conditions like varicose veins, so expectant mothers should pay extra close attention to symptoms like leg cramps.

    Seeking Treatment for Leg Cramps

    When dealing with a relatively minor complication like leg cramps, it can be tempting to ignore your symptoms and simply hope they go away after a while. If leg cramps are your problem, however, ignoring the issue can be dangerous. Since leg cramps can be symptoms of so many serious medical problems, it’s important to see your doctor right away is you are affected by this concern.

Sources: healthline.com, medicinenet.com, mayoclinic.org

Fight All-Day Sitting with This Easy Tip

So many of us spend all day sitting at a desk, staring at our computers.  This sedentary lifestyle takes a toll on so many parts of our lives. Posture suffers. Our waistlines start to expand. And our veins don’t work as well as they should. Basically, sitting all day is slowly killing us.

But, don’t fear: hope is here! According to a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology, just 30 minutes of physical activity in a day can fight those awful side effects of sitting.

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

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

Sitting Kills You in So Many Ways

We touched on some obvious effects of sitting. But there are so many more effects we haven’t reviewed yet. Sitting can cause inflammation, impact insulin resistance, and up your risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Sitting also impacts your blood flow, causing blood to start pooling in your legs and feet. That pooling blood can increase your risk for varicose veins or even deep vein thrombosis ()DVT (deep vein thrombosis, a potentially fatal condition.)

How Can Physical Activity Fight Sitting Side Effects?

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

Sources: American Journal of Epidemiology

 

Do This for 30 minutes each Day if you Want Healthier Veins!

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

Walking to protect your vein health

Walk your way to a lower risk of vein disease!

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

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

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

5 More Benefits of Daily Walking

  1. Lose Weight

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

  1. Fight off Diabetes

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

  1. Improve Digestion

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

  1. Protect your joints

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

  1. Improve your sleep

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

Sources: Prevention.com

Move It Monday: Walking Workout

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

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.

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 Dr. Fox or Dr. Hardee.

 

Sources: www.verywellfit.com

Uh Oh: Even ‘Good’ Cholesterol Can Hurt Your Veins

In recent years, healthy eaters have been told to focus on ‘good cholesterol,’ or HDL, for it’s heart health benefits. Popular diet plans, like the Keto diet, focus on high fat intake, with the idea of eating these good fats. After all, the thinking was that LDL (bad cholesterol), not HDL, is what causes plaque to build up in your arteries, leading to conditions like peripheral arterial disease (PAD). People with PAD experience a slow down in the flow of blood from their heart to the rest of their body; this can lead to pain, cramping, ulcers and blood clots. 

According to old beliefs, HDL moved LDL away from arteries and into the liver, preventing 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, new research is turning that kind of thinking around, warning us that too much HDL can be just as ‘bad’ for your body as the other kind of cholesterol.

The Problem with Good Cholesterol

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

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

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

Sources: European Society of Cardiology, sciencedaily.com

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!

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 Vein Disease—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!