Tag: exercise

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!

The Dos and Don’ts of Varicose Vein Exercises

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

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

The Best Exercises for Varicose Vein Sufferers

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

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

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

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

Varicose Vein Warnings for Cyclists

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

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

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

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

What Workouts Should I Avoid if I have Varicose Veins?

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

Running can also be a problem. Now, it may be ok to take a light jog on a grassy surface or on a trail. But pounding your legs on a treadmill or concrete surface puts lots of pressure on your feet and legs. Which is a big problem for varicose veins.

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

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

When Should I Treat my Varicose Veins?

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

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

Fight Effects of Sitting all Day with These Easy Tips

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

Side Effects of Sitting All Dayall-day sitting hurts your veins

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

Shorter Life

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

Blood Clots

If you sit in one spot for more than four hours, you raise your risk for all forms of blood clots, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control). That risk goes even higher if you are over the age of 40, obese, or recently had surgery. Even taking estrogen-based contraceptives, or hormone-replacement therapy drugs can raise your risk further. Also, being pregnant or being in the three-month post-partum window, being a cancer patient or recent cancer survivor, having varicose veins or a family history of blood clots will also worsen the risks of extended sitting.

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

Varicose Veins

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

Reversing Effects of Sitting All Day

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

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

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

Now, this study refers to moderate exercise levels. And, if you stick with moderate exercise, that 30 minutes a day is what you’ll need. Because, according to the World Health Organization, you need 150-300 minutes of moderate exercise each week to avoid the side effects of sitting. (Although this man from Wisconsin claims he can balance the effects of sitting all day with 10 pushups and a walk around the block. And his doctor says his labs actually agree with him!)

Don’t have the patience for lots of low-intensity workouts? Here’s some good news for all our HIIT lovers out there. If you engage in high-intensity exercise, you only need 75 to 100 minutes of exercise each week to fight the effects of all-day sitting! So get ready to sweat hard–as long as your doctor has cleared you for more intense exercise!

How Can Physical Activity Fight Sitting Side Effects?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

How to Get Better Circulation: 5 Easy Tips

Are you wondering how to get better circulation? So many conditions can affect your blood’s ability to circulate through your body. Peripheral arterial disease (PAD), chronic venous disease (CVD) and even varicose veins can all make it harder for blood to flow into or out of certain areas of your body, especially your lower extremities. That’s the bad news, but here’s some good: there are things you can do to improve that circulation. And, in this post, we’ll share our three favorites. But first, let’s help you figure out if compromised circulation may be affecting your health.

Symptoms of Poor Circulation

No matter what condition impacts your circulation, you will likely experience: pain, tingling, numbness and muscle cramps. Any of these symptoms should send you to see your vein doctor, so you can be scanned for conditions that may be affecting your blood flow. Once the cause of your circulatory problems has been diagnosed, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following therapies to improve your blood flow.

How to Get Better Circulation After COVID

With new research, we’ve learned that COVID-19 attacks your blood vessels. That’s why so many COVID patients develop blood clots. And why so many people who recover from the disease still face circulatory challenges.

But how does this happen? The virus seems to attack your vein’s endothelium. (That’s your blood vessel’s interior lining. If it’s damaged, they can’t function optimally.) Today, researchers think that endothelial damage explains why so many COVID patients get deadly blood clots.

Additionally, vein specialists are seeing patients develop varicose veins after a COVID infection. For now, we can’t confidently say that viral damage causes these veins to appear. What we can say is that COVID damages your body’s circulatory system in a variety of ways. So knowing how to improve circulation after you recover could protect you from further complications.

Hot and Cold Therapy

Changes in temperature can improve blood circulation. When trying cold changes, we can apply ice packs, cold sprays or even an ice massage. Cooling the area with poor blood flow initially constricts blood vessels in the area; when they warm up and dilate gain, blood flow to the area improves. A direct application of hot packs or other warming devices dilates your blood vessels, improving blood flow in the same manner as the after-effects of cold therapy.

How to Get Better Circulation: Compression Therapy

Compression stockings improve circulation by putting pressure on your leg. That pressure helps push blood from the bottom of your legs into the deep venous system. And that helps blood return to your heart, helping mitigate symptoms of poor circulation. Even more importantly, compression therapy can reduce or eliminate edema (swelling that occurs in your legs, ankles or feet) and can help reduce the risk of DVT (deep vein thrombosis, a potentially deadly condition that often develops without any warning signs.)

Improve Circulation as you Eat the Rainbow Improve circulation with flavanoid rich foods such as beets

Following a vein-health diet is a great, natural way to boost your blood flow. And a key part of that diet is colorful fruits and veggies. Why does color matter? The rainbow hues mean lots of flavonoids, which are a group of helpful nutrients that also give color to plants. When you eat a flavonoid such as anthocyanin, (found in deep red, blue and purple foods such as blueberries), the nutrients can help protect your blood vessel’s lining by strengthening their walls and fighting inflammation.

Now, as a group, flavonoids have another important job to do for your circulation. They can increase nitric oxide levels in your blood, which relaxes (dilates) your blood vessels. Once dilated, it’s easier for blood to circulate through your vessels. In addition to the berries, look for brightly colored choices such as purple cabbage, black plums and red beets to score the maximum benefits.

And that’s not all. New studies show that upping your daily flavanoid intake decreases your risk of PAD hospitalizations. But you don’t have to go crazy on your intake: the benefits max out at a certain level. Rather, to get the best PAD complication boost, aim for between 750mg and 1000mg per day. (Lots of foods contain flavanoids, but not all are created equal. Unsweetened baking cocoa has 206 mg for every 100 grams. One cup of blueberries, in contrast, has about 400mg of flavanoids. And for the real homerun, try a cup of green tea, which contains up to 1000 mg of flavanoids. In other words, your goal for the day!)

Spice Things Up

Certain supplements, such as ginkgo biloba and cayenne pepper, are known to stimulate circulation. How does this work? Both supplements relax (or dilate) your blood vessels. Which, as we’ve reviewed before, makes it easier for blood to flow freely through your body.

Exercise

When you exercise, your muscles become stronger. And when your muscles are stronger, they are better able to help pump blood back to your heart.  For this reason, any weight-bearing exercise that your doctor approves can help improve your circulation. Aerobic exercise also improves your circulation—walking is a great option because it is low impact. Exercising in the pool packs a double whammy, because your body is able to feel lighter and move longer when you are floating in the water.

How does exercise improve circulation at the level of your veins? It helps your valves pump blood up and out of your legs, moving back to your heart. Plus, exercise can help your body form new blood vessels. This is important if you already have varicose veins, since the new vessels can help take pressure off ones that aren’t working optimally.

And here’s a fun, pandemic friendly exercise tip for boosting circulation: try jumping on your trampoline! Yup, that’s right: bouncing isn’t just for kids. In fact, purchasing a mini-trampoline for indoor exercise is a very grown-up way to boost your vein health. That’s because, jumping (also called rebounding) on the trampoline can help reduce the pooling blood associated with varicose veins. It can also boost your circulation, and help you build stronger, healthier veins. Wondering how long you have to jump around? Here’s the good news : according to one rebounding study, you just need five minutes, three times a day, to boost your circulation.

Now, why is exercise so effective? As you move, you increase blood flow throughout your body. In other words, you force your blood to circulate!

Improving circulation will help manage the symptoms of decreased circulation, but if you want lasting relief, you will need to treat the underlying cause of your symptoms. So, if you have leg cramps, tingling or other symptoms of decreased blood flow, come see one of our Houston area vein specialists to discuss your treatment options.

 

Sources: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, BBC Good Foods, The Sports Daily, Bel Marra Health

What Can I Do to Prevent Varicose Veins?

You can prevent varicose veins, with a little help from your Houston vein specialists. When you develop varicose veins, it’s typically because your vein walls and valves have sustained damage. Often, that damage occurs because of a combination of two factors: compromised blood flow and increased pressure. When the valves in your veins don’t work well, blood has a hard time flowing back to your heart. When it can’t flow back to your heart, the blood builds up in your legs. And when the blood builds up in your legs, it puts a lot of pressure on the walls of your veins. That’s when they start to stretch and bulge, and become visible through your skin.

What are the Symptoms of Varicose Veins?

Symptoms of varicose veins include:

·         bulging, blue or purple veins

·         leg pain or heaviness

·         itchy skin

·         changes in skin color

·         leg cramps, especially in the evenings

Can I Prevent Varicose Veins from Developing?

Certain factors, like your age, pregnancy and family history all increase your risk of developing varicose veins. Your job can also drastically increase your varicose vein risk. In fact, people with certain careers are very likely to develop varicose veins. These include many medical professionals, and people, like truck drivers, who often have to travel by car or plane for their jobs.

All day standing is also a big risk factor for vein health problems. Which is why restaurant and retail staff, hairdressers and barbers, and people who work on assembly lines are very vulnerable to vein disease.

But there are measures you can take to lower your risk of developing new varicose veins. Some of these moves can also improve the appearance of existing vein damage.

Drink More Water

You need water to improve your blood flow and strengthens the muscles that support your veins. Also, staying hydrated helps thin your blood, meaning it has an easier time circulating. It’s also less likely to clot, which reduces your risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT). But how much water is enough? On average, you need to drink 8 ounces of water every two hours. But if you’re larger than average, or exercise more (see below), you’ll need more fluids.

You also need to avoid foods and drinks that dehydrate your body, especially ones with lots of salt (sodium.) Instead, choose foods with high-water content. We especially recommend cantaloupe, watermelon, strawberries, peaches, and oranges. And, on the veggie side, cucumbers, celery and zucchini are all great options.

Exercise

Getting regular exercise helps improve blood flow in your legs—walking several times a week, for at least 30 minutes each time, will strengthen your calf muscles and improve your blood flow. Both will help prevent blood from pooling in your legs and putting pressure on your vein walls.

Prop up Your Tootsies

Whenever you get the chance to take a break, sit down and get your feet up (ideally above the level of your heart.) This will get that blood flowing back where it belongs.

Move More Every Day

Standing or sitting for long periods of time can take a toll on your veins. If you can get up and move around, or sit down and take a load off, at least once an hour, this will minimize the toll taken on your veins.

Drop Some Pounds

The closer you are to your ideal weight, the less pressure you put on your veins, and the better your entire circulatory system will function.

Take on Outside Pressure

When your body is having problems pushing blood out of your legs, wearing therapeutic compression socks or stockings can help minimize potential vein damage.

While all of these factors can help decrease your chances of developing varicose veins, if you have an increased risk of vein disease, you should stick to regular visits with your vein specialist. That way, if problems do develop, we can catch and treat them as soon as possible. So, if you’re overdue for your vein health check-up, schedule an appointment with our team right away!

Sources: Mayoclinic.org

 

Request an AppointmentRequest Appointment