Tag: PAD

Why are my Feet Numb? Help for Diagnosing PAD

Are you wondering, why are my feet numb? Or have you developed leg cramps or calf pain when you walk? While these symptoms might send you running to the podiatrist, they’re actually a sign of peripheral arterial disease (PAD), a form of heart disease. Here’s what you need to know.

Why Are My Feet Numb? Early Signs of Heart Disease why are my feet numb

When you think about heart disease, you probably think about chest pain. Maybe you’ve even heard that shooting arm pain could be a heart attack warning sign. But you probably don’t think about your feet telling you something about your heart. And that’s a mistake.

After all, your heart’s got a big job: it has to circulate blood throughout your body. But, if something slows down your circulation, this form of heart disease could trigger symptoms in your feet and legs.

For that reason, the answer to, “Why are my feet numb,” could be: your heart’s in trouble. And, more specifically, it could be a sign you’ve got PAD. Especially if you also notice leg cramps, skin color changes or patches of hair loss on your legs.

Leg Cramps and Whole Body PAD Symptoms

Why does PAD cause numbness or leg cramps? The answer is pretty simple. When you have this condition, plaque has built up inside your arteries. (We call this atherosclerosis.)  This build-up narrows your arteries, so less blood gets through to your legs and feet.

What happens next? Well, with reduced blood flow, numb feet are possible. Plus, those leg cramps we mentioned can show up when you walk or exercise. And that’s because they’re not receiving enough oxygen-rich blood to support their movement.

C.H.A.T Campaign for Diagnosing PAD

In April, we marked “Limb Loss Awareness Month” and “National Minority Health Month.” And that’s why we need to answer questions like “Why are my feet numb?” by diagnosing PAD. After all, three-in-five heart attack sufferers have PAD, as do one fifth of people over 60 and one-third of people with diabetes over the age of 50. Members of minority communities have a high risk of undiagnosed PAD, which ups their risk for heart attacks, strokes, and  amputations.

For that reason, activists launched a new campaign, called Let’s C.H.A.T.,” to help clinicians diagnosing PAD during routine checkups. The initials stand for Carotids, Heart, Abdomen, and Toes. And they offer a plan for determining vascular health with the tools available in a typical clinic. Here’s how it all breaks down.

C: Check the neck arteries, called CAROTIDS, for an audible sound known as a bruit. This suggests problems with blood flow.

H: Check HEART rhythm and rate.

A: Listen for a bruit in the ABDOMEN.

T: Examine the TOES for foot and leg pulses. This can help detect restricted blood flow due to PAD.

Along with a comprehensive oral health history and our PAD risk assessment metric, these little letters could help patients get an earlier diagnosis. And reduce their risk for cardiovascular complications.

Why are my feet numb and other PAD Symptoms

Of course, these aren’t the only signs of PAD. Other common symptoms include changes in your feet and legs’ skin color. (Usually becoming pale, or even developing a blue-ish tinge.)

Your feet may feel cold, the growth of your leg hair and toenails may slow, or you may even develop leg ulcers. It’s also important to mention that PAD symptoms differ for men and women. Some men develop erectile dysfunction with this condition. And women tend to have fewer noticeable symptoms. This means their diagnoses come later, leading to more serious complications and more invasive treatment needs.

Preventing PAD

Several lifestyle changes can help you reduce your risk for PAD. First and most important: quit smoking if you haven’t already. Like PAD, smoking limits your blood flow. So the two together can make a deadly combination.

Next, it’s very important to follow a vein health diet, to control your cholesterol levels, maintain a healthy weight, and keep your blood sugar levels in the ideal range. Regular exercise can prevent heart disease. (And certain types of exercise can even improve PAD symptoms like leg cramps.) Of course, in some cases these measures won’t be enough to prevent disease. In that case, you’ll need to seek medical treatment options.

Diagnosing and Treating PAD in Houston, TX PAD treatment

Identifying PAD is crucial, because the condition increases your risk for strokes and heart attacks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Because of this serious risk, preventing peripheral arterial disease is incredibly important. And so is early diagnosis and intervention.

In our Houston area vein clinics, we offer an easy assessment to help identify your PAD risk. Then, if you have an elevated risk, or already have atherosclerosis, we can recommend a variety of treatment options. These include angioplasty, stenting and atherectomy. And the option we suggest for you will depend on your current health and the severity of your condition.

Why are my Feet Numb? Non-PAD Related Causes

In some cases, numb feet and leg cramps don’t mean you have PAD. In fact, if you’re diabetic, the answer to “Why are my feet numb?” could be peripheral neuropathy. (This is a form of nerve damage that impacts up to 70% of diabetics. And it limits feeling in your feet, or causes tingling or burning pain.)

Neuropathy is also a common after-effect of chemotherapy. And people living with HIV may also develop this form of nerve damage. You could even develop numb feet without PAD or neuropathy: this symptom could be a side effect of certain medications, as well as autoimmune diseases, kidney problems or even liver issues.

Regardless of the cause, numb feet and leg cramps are symptoms you can’t ignore. For that reason, if you’ve noticed changes in foot sensation, leg cramps or other PAD warning signs, the time to act is now. Schedule an immediate appointment with our team of Houston area vein specialists. Using the Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI, a simple bedside test) we can quickly and painlessly diagnose peripheral arterial disease. Then, if that’s the cause of your numb feet, we can tailor your treatment plan to prevent serious complications and heart disease progression.

 

Here’s What you Need to Know about Bloodclots

In our Houston vein practice, we know how serious a threat bloodclots pose to your health. When we treat patients with Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), a condition in which blood clots form in the deep veins of your legs, we face a medical emergency. That’s because, if a blood clot breaks free and travels to other parts of your body—especially to your lungs—it can threaten your life.

But, many people want to know: why do I get blood clots? And, what are they exactly? Is there anything I can do to prevent them? So, in this post, we will try to answer all of those questions. Just keep reading to learn more.

Why do bloodclots form? stages of PAD

When things are working properly, your blood flows freely through your body, delivering oxygen to your organs and flushing out the waste products created by your body’s metabolic processes. But, if you get a cut, scrape or injury, blood in your arteries and veins (veins return blood from the body to the heart; arteries transport blood away from your heart) will clot to block your blood vessels and stop you from bleeding out.

But, when your arteries or veins get blocked when you aren’t injured, you need medical intervention. Otherwise, you can face complications such as strokes, heart attacks, organ damage and even limb loss. On certain occasions, as we mentioned earlier, blood clots can kill you by traveling to your lungs (pulmonary embolism), interfering with your ability to breathe.

Blood clots form in blood vessels—either your deep veins or your arteries. Typically, they form after your blood vessels get damaged, triggering a reaction in your body. This reaction involves a mix of platelets and clotting factor proteins.

Bloodclots Risk Factors

Anyone can develop a clot. But certain issues raise your risk. About 8% of the population experiences hypercoagulation, a condition that makes your blood clot more often. But for those of us who don’t face this concern, pregnancy, heart disease and cancer could all increase your risk.

Still, even your lifestyle could be an issue. Being stuck in bed for extended periods makes bloodclots more likely to form. Any damage to your blood vessel walls, either due to injury or surgery, could also spell trouble. Finally, while research is ongoing, prior COVID infection seems to trigger an inflammatory response that could make your blood more likely to clot.

Warning Signs and Symptoms

Since a blood clot in your legs can break free and travel to your lungs, it’s very important to recognize the early warning signs. With a clot, you may notice a hard lump in your leg, which could also display inflammation. When the affected vein is near your surface.

When your surface veins are impacted, some people describe clots as feeling like thin sausages. And, in many cases, the skin on top of that bulge appears red in color. If you notice any of these signs, seek immediate medical attention. Otherwise, you’re at risk for serious medical complications and health concerns.

How Do Blood Clots Cause Health Problems?

As we mentioned, problematic blood clots form when the connection between platelets and clotting factor proteins goes awry. Platelets are objects in your blood that group together and stick to the walls of your blood vessels when needed.

Clotting factors are proteins in the blood that trigger a reaction to makes platelets and red blood cells stick together. Typically, other proteins in your body make that reaction stop, so your clot only reaches the size needed to prevent excess bleeding.  But when damage to your blood vessels impacts that reaction, clots may grow unchecked, leaving you at risk for clotting conditions like DVT.

Arterial clots and DVT

We can’t always predict who will be affected by blood clots, or when those clots will form. But we do know certain factors that can increase your risk for clots:

  • Prolonged immobility, as with long airplane flights
  • Having thick blood (hypercoagulability.) Often, you only discover your blood is thick after developing a clood clot. But in some cases, hypercoagulability causes chest pain, dizziness, slurred speech and shortness of breath. Usually, this condition is a symptom of other diseases, including vascular diseases suches as polycythemia.
  •  Arm or leg surgery
  • Casting a broken bone
  • Trauma
  • Smoking
  • Being pregnant
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Age
  • A family history of peripheral artery disease (PAD), stroke or heart disease.

Remember, PAD develops when you have atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis, a type of arteriosclerosis, is a condition where plaque builds up in your arteries. It specifically means that plaque built up on the inner most wall of your artery. Once that happens, your arteries narrow and ‘harden.’ In turn, this reduces blood flow to certain parts of your body. And it also increases your risk of blood getting ‘stuck,’ and forming clots.

New research has revealed an additional risk factor for blood clots, and it’s one that you unfortunately can’t control. In fact, your blood type can contribute to that risk, according to a study published in the Journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. 

The research, which began in 2017, found that people with types A or B blood had a combined 8% higher risk of heart attack, and a 10% increased risk of heart failure, as compared to people with type O blood. So, knowing your blood type could help you understand your risk for developing a blood clot.

 

Diagnosing and Treating Blood Clots

The best way to treat blood clots is to prevent their formation. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, staying mobile even on long trips, and using compression therapy can all help protect you from DVT. Even if you develop a DVT, compression therapy—especially within 24 hours of the clot’s formation—can help manage your risk of further complications.

So, as with many other vein and arterial conditions, timeliness is key when it comes to treating blood clots. The sooner you see a vein specialist, the better the outcome you will likely enjoy. So if you have any symptoms of or risks for blood clots, schedule an appointment with your Houston vein specialists today!

 

Sources: Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology JournalAmerican Heart Association

 

The Scary Truth about PAD and Limb Loss

PAD is one of the top causes of limb loss in this country. And that’s a big deal, since over 2 million people in the United States are living with limb loss. If those statistics sound scary, consider this: by the year 2050, an estimated 3.6 million people will have a lost limb.

Now, vascular conditions are responsible for the most amputations in this country. But they aren’t the only problem. Other causes of limb loss include trauma, cancers and birth defects.

PAD Limb Loss Statistics

A year-long study by the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America uncovered frightening stats.

  • Diabetics have a 10 times higher risk of amputation than anyone else.
  • Among diabetics, those of African American, Hispanic, and Native Americans backgrounds have an even higher risk of lower limb loss.
  • 82% of amputations in the U.S. are the result of vascular disease. We expect this percentage to rise as more Americans develop diabetes and PAD.

Diabetes, PAD and Limb Loss PAD causes leg pain and limb loss

What’s the connection between these big three problems? Let’s take a closer look. Diabetes is a condition in which your body’s ability to produce or respond to insulin is impaired.

When diabetes is poorly controlled, glucose can build up in the blood stream and contribute to the development of plaque, a substance that can narrow your arteries and reduce blood flow, usually to your legs and feet.

PAD and Cholesterol

Built-up glucose isn’t all that contributes to plaque. High cholesterol levels are also part of the problem. Your liver produces cholesterol to help regulate your metabolism. But when it produces too much of this waxy substance, cholesterol can combine with glucose and other substances to create plaque buildup. And that’s when your blood flow can be affected.

One of the earliest signs of a problem is when your toenail growth slows down. Brittle toenails can also be a problem, along with loss of leg hair, shrunken muscles, or even erectile dysfunction in men. But all of these are merely symptoms of the main problem–reduced blood flow to your extremities.

In fact, that’s the definition of PAD—a condition that sets in when blood vessels develop atherosclerosis (built up plaque) inside the vessel walls. The plaque narrows the vessels narrower, slowing blood flow. If a blockage hardens it is more likely to burst and cause a blood clot to develop. A clot may completely block your artery, which cuts off blood flow to your legs and feet. If that occurs, a few things could happen.

Because of the reduction in blood flow that comes with PAD, the vascular condition is a risk factor for foot ulcers (deep wounds that just won’t heal), and foot ulcers frequently lead to foot and lower limb amputations, especially in diabetic patients. In severe instances, where all blood flow to the legs and feet is blocked, gangrene can take hold in your limbs and lead to an amputation before you even see an ulcer or any other warning sign.

Are you starting to get the picture? Each condition feeds into the next, putting individuals at major risk of losing vital limbs.

Who’s At Risk for PAD?

  • Anyone over the age of 50
  • Diabetics
  • People with kidney failure
  • Obese or sedentary individuals
  • Smokers
  • People with high cholesterol or high blood pressure
  • Individuals with a family history of PAD

PAD Treatment Options manage blood pressure to prevent PAD and limb loss

We have to diagnose your PAD before offering treatment. Because, without a comprehensive vascular exam, available in our Houston vein clinic, it’s difficult to spot PAD. After all, PAD symptoms can imitate other problems, so this condition is often misdiagnosed or not caught at all!

Currently, doctors are exploring new PAD treatments. One of these experimental ideas involves standing on a pulsating plate for half an hour. Called Revitive, the UK’s NHS (National Health Service) hopes this therapy will improve your blood flow, helping relieve PAD pain.

Other PAD treatments may involve surgery to transplant healthy veins from somewhere else in your body. You may also need to treat the underlying causes of your PAD. So treatment could include prescription medications to manage blood pressure and cholesterol. You may even need blood thinners to help improve blood flow to your legs.

But in our office, we try to help you find relief in the safest way possible. Once you know that you have PAD, we can determine a treatment plan: interventions may be as simple as recommending lifestyle changes like a better diet and more exercise. Depending on the progression of the disease, our vein doctor may recommend unblocking your arteries through one of our minimally invasive interventional radiology treatments.

Our goal as vein doctors is to protect your vein health and your limbs. Know the risks of PAD and, if you believe you may have this condition, come in for a consultation. One simple exam could keep you from becoming part of this country’s growing group of limb loss victims.

Sources: https://www.sciencedirect.com, NHS Health Research Authority

6 PAD Symptoms to Know and Watch For

We recently completed PAD Awareness Month, so it’s the perfect time to teach you about identifying PAD symptoms. First, a definition: Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is a disease. It develops when arteries in your lower legs narrow.

Because many PAD symptoms mimic those of other conditions, this disease is often hard to diagnose. About 20 million Americans have this disease. Even worse? Almost 500,000 people end up in the hospital because of PAD each year. (A number that rose sharply between 2011 and 2017, according to a study from Yale University. Especially for men younger men, under the age of 65.)

On its own, that’s a scary statistic. But here’s a fact that should shake you up further. Up to 200,000 Americans with PAD don’t even know they have it! So, in order to prevent a missed diagnosis, we need you to know and identify PAD symptoms. If you experience any of these problems, it’s important to see your Houston vein specialist right away.

Painful Symptoms of PAD

Muscle pain is one of several symptoms of PAD

  1. Pain in Your Legs After Walking or Exercise. One of the most common symptoms of PAD, this pain or cramping occurs with movement because your lower extremities don’t get enough oxygen to support the increased activity.  Most often, PAD sufferers will experience this pain in their calf muscles, but it may manifest anywhere in the lower legs. Pain will typically not resolve until the PAD sufferer stops all physical activity.
  2. Wounds, Sores or Ulcers. This second symptom is also caused by a lack of oxygen reaching your lower limbs. When you cut yourself, and you don’t have PAD, proper circulation and blood flow will help your injury heal quickly. When you have PAD, however, even a small scrape can remain open and unhealed as the plaque in their arteries blocks blood flow to the wound. This symptom must be addressed immediately: left unchecked, a wound can lead to serious infection and even amputation.

    Physical PAD Warning Signs

  3. Skin Changes on Your Legs. Once again, poor circulation is behind this PAD symptom. Some of the physical changes that occur with PAD include skin that appears to be shiny, loss of leg and/or toe hair, and a blue-ish tinge to your skin. Your lower legs, especially your toes, may also feel cold, even when your feet are covered and should otherwise feel toasty.
  4. Muscle, Not Joint, Pain. We’ve already noted that leg pain and cramps are a symptom of PAD, but it’s important to note where that pain is located. Many people think of leg pain as a normal part of aging, and it CAN be–when that pain is happening in your joints. When it’s located in your muscles, however, that is a sign that something beyond normal aches and pains is going on.
  5. Dead tissue. Most people will identify their PAD before reaching this point, but if you have gangrenous or dead tissue on your toes, feet or legs and you haven’t been checked for PAD, get a diagnostic vein scan ASAP.

    Emotional PAD Symptoms

  6. Depression. Especially for women, your depression symptoms may develop or worsen with PAD. So if you have the symptoms we described above, and depression, it’s time for a PAD check.

If there’s one thing we need you to remember, it’s this: PAD is a progressive disease. If you ignore early warning signs, your symptoms of PAD will get worse. Don’t wait until you’re in pain. Call our Houston area clinics today and schedule an immediate PAD consultation!

 

Sources: Mayoclinic.org , Healio Cardiology 

The Danger of Leaky Veins and Vein Disease!

Did you know that untreated vein disease could lead to leaky veins? And, when you have leaky valves or veins, you may develop edema or vascular congestion, a condition that could cause your feet to turn blue due to constriction in the small blood vessels that feed your extremities?

Well, it’s true, and it’s one of the biggest reasons why we want you to stick with preventative health care. Being proactive about your vein health can help you avoid a medical emergency. This is something New York City mom Tammy Fried learned the hard way. While she was 28 weeks pregnant!

A Scary COVID Vein Story

Back in May 2020, Tammy told the Today show that she woke up feeling something wasn’t right. Soon, she had a nose bleed, and started coughing blood! She called for a virtual emergency room visit, and luckily, got sent to the real hospital immediately!

Once there, doctors discovered that one of her abnormal blood vessels burst. Now, that leaky vein was spilling blood into her lungs. Fortunately, there was an interventional radiologist on call at the hospital. So, he could plug the hole with minimally invasive treatments. And she could avoid surgery, helping her recover. And, two weeks later, deliver her baby boy, now nicknamed Miracle Max!

Of course, we want our patients to avoid emergency situations like Tammy’s. So, if your legs are tired, heavy or cramping, your may need a diagnostic ultrasound from your vein specialist. If that is the case, you may be wondering: how will an ultrasound uncover what’s going on inside my legs? Isn’t that kind of technology more common in Obstetrics offices?

Well, you’re partially correct: interventional radiologists use a different kind of ultrasound to diagnose conditions like Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD.) The technology we use is known as a Doppler ultrasound. And in this post, we’ll teach you how it helps us detect many different kinds of vein disease.

What conditions can a Doppler ultrasound detect?

Doppler ultrasounds check your blood flow. They help us discover whether you have problems like narrowing or leaky veins or blockages in your blood vessels.

This type of ultrasound uses sound waves to check how well blood flows through your legs. Those waves bounce off your moving blood cells, giving your doctors a better picture of the speed and health of your blood flow. Doppler ultrasounds involve hand-held devices; screenings are pain free and non-invasive.

Using a Doppler ultrasound, vein specialists can detect disruptions in your blood flow, hardening of your arteries and even potentially life threatening conditions like Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot that develops in the deep veins of your legs that rest well below the skin’s surface.

When should I get a Doppler ultrasound?

We may recommend an ultrasound if there are signs that your blood flow has been reduced. These symptoms can include changes in the appearance of the skin on your legs, leg pain that appears with movement, hair loss on your legs or even wounds that won’t heal.

If you’ve had a blood clot, or we suspect you have one, a Doppler ultrasound can quickly confirm this diagnosis.

We may also recommend a Doppler ultrasound if you’ve recently had a stroke or heart attack. That way, we can determine whether compromised blood flow or clots may be putting you at risk for a repeat problem.

What’s involved in a diagnostic ultrasound for leaky veins?

You’ll typically lie down for your ultrasound. Your ultrasound technician may measure pressure in certain areas of your body by apply blood pressure cuffs at points like your ankles, calves or thighs.

Next, your technician will apply lubricant to the  ultarasound guide (called a transducer). Then he or she will move the device over your skin until we receive a good image of your blood flow.  A Doppler ultrasound typically takes up to 45 minutes. Once it’s done, you are usually free to get up and go back to your daily activities.

When you have an ultrasound in our Houston area vein clinics, your results will be reviewed and delivered to you by one of our highly trained team members. If a problem is detected, we will then take the time to discuss and explain your diagnosis, and walk you through all your possible treatment options.

Sounds like an easy way to prevent medical emergencies, right? That’s because it is! So don’t wait another day, worrying that your damaged veins may leak. Instead, schedule an appointment with our team today. We’ll give you a better picture of your health, and protect you from problems that could already be developing!

 

5 Signs Your Leg Pain is Actually PAD

Peripheral Arterial Disease is a tricky condition. Its symptoms look like many other vein health problems. Meaning you often wait to get your diagnosis. Take a classic symptom like tired, heavy legs, for example. At some point, everyone’s legs get tired. If you’ve walked a lot during the day, had a hard work out, or just been stuck on your feet, you may get muscle cramps or leg fatigue. And that would be perfectly normal. Sometimes, however, that discomfort in your legs could be something more serious: peripheral arterial disease, a condition in which plaque narrows your arteries, limiting blood flow to your lower extremities. Here’s how you can tell when your leg pain is a cause for concern. And a roundup of other warning signs and symptoms that could indicate trouble with your blood flow.

5 PAD Warning Signs to Watch For

PAD-affected arteries before, during and after minimally invasive treatments
  1. The leg pain is constant. Normal leg pain only comes on once in a while. But if your legs hurt or you feel a burning sensation in your legs or rear end every time you walk or climb the stairs, it could be PAD. This is especially true if your discomfort shows up with movement and resolves with rest. That’s a likely sign of a problem, since your limited blood flow makes it painful to move, because that movement needs oxygenated blood, and your body can’t supply it.
  2. Your wounds don’t heal. Because PAD limits blood flow to your lower legs, it reduces the healing time for any cuts or injuries. So even a little scratch could become a major health challenge, since oxygen-rich blood doesn’t arrive to help with healing. If you have leg pain and an ulcer, that’s a likely sign that you’ve got PAD.
  3. Your hair growth changes. When blockages limit blood flow to your legs, that alters the way your hair cells function in the area. And that means your leg hair growth will slow or stop. Or you may even notice hairless patches on your legs.
  4. Your legs and feet are cold. Now, this symptom could be a sign of poor circulation. But if the problem is chronic, instead of problem that arises from time to time, it could be a sign of PAD.
  5. Your lifestyle puts you at risk. Smokers, people with diabetes, or individuals with high blood pressure and high cholesterol are at higher risk of developing PAD. (Remember, cholesterol is a fatty substance your liver produces. You need some cholesterol for your body to function. But choose the ‘bad’ kind, or allow cholesterol levels to rise too high, and it can form blood-flow blocking ‘plaque’ in your arteries.) If you have these risk factors and experience regular leg pain, be sure to get checked for PAD. At our Houston-area vein clinics, we can help you get an accurate diagnosis so we can begin the healing process.

Treating Peripheral Arterial Disease in Houston

The above symptoms aren’t all you need to watch out for. Other signs of PAD include cold, numb legs and feet; changes in your skin color; poor toenail growth; changes in your leg-hair growth; and even erectile dysfunction in men.

We can diagnose PAD in our office with a bedside test called an Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI), which uses ultrasound and blood pressure cuffs to evaluate the circulation in your arms and legs. If this test is abnormal we may order further imaging tests such as Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA) or Computed Tomography (CT) to determine the extent of your problem and help us plan your treatment.

PAD is a serious medical condition, but help is readily available, often without surgery. Using minimally invasive procedures, our Houston area vein specialists can help open up your arteries and restore blood flow to your lower extremities. But before we can help, you need an accurate diagnosis, so watch for warning signs and see your doctor right away if you have any cause for concern.

 

Sources: American College of Surgeons, galesburg.com

This is How Much Sleep You Need, for Your Arteries

Ever wondered how much sleep you need? After all, when it comes to getting sleep, the amount you get never feels like enough. So maybe you’ve been using more work-from-home opportunities in order to catch up on sleep. That’s certainly a good idea. But take note: when it comes to getting sleep, you can get too much. At least, that is, in terms of your vein health.

How Much Sleep You Need for Vein Health

According to a study from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, your arteries need a very specific amount of sleep. And that magic number falls in the range of six to eight hours, every night.

Specifically, the study revealed that getting less or more sleep resulted in “stiffer” arteries, meaning they were less likely to contract. And, unlike your muscles, stiff arteries can’t be loosened up so easily.

This is a major concern, since less flexible veins and arteries struggle to keep your blood pumping. When that happens, you’re more likely to see plaque build up in your arteries. And, in turn, you’ll see a jump in risk for Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD), heart attacks and strokes.

Now, under-sleeping is a bigger problem than over-sleeping—both for your arteries and the rest of your body. When you sleep less than six hours a night, your arterial risk increases by 54%. On the other hand, sleeping more than eight hours increases your risk by 39%.

In fact, one Chinese study directly linked longer sleep durations with decreased physical activity. (And increased PAD risk!) Now, that;s just one study. And the perceived risk increase is relatively minor. So, while that’s less of a problem, it’s still not great. Clearly, prioritizing optimal sleep is crucial to your health.

How to Get More Rest

There are many different methods you can use to get enough hours in each night. In order to stay in the optimal range, create a bed time and waking time for yourself. And stick to those times every single day, even on weekends.

Additionally, make time for daily exercise, but try to sneak those sweat sessions into the earlier part of your day. Late night exercise may interfere with your sleep. It’s also important to avoid large meals towards the end of the day. And start shutting down screens in the last hour before bedtime, as blue light can interfere with your sleep.

On that note, try to keep all devices out of your bedroom. To create a better sleep environment, it’s wise to keep your room as dark as possible. (Black out shades could be very helpful.) You may also want to turn your thermostat down a few degrees before bed, since cooler temperatures can help you enjoy a more restful night of sleep.

Need more help protecting your veins and arteries? Reach out to our Houston vein specialists for an in-office consultation! We can help make sure your arteries are getting everything they need.

Sources: Journal of the American College of Cardiology

Why did my feet turn darker than the rest of my skin?

Have you noticed the skin on your feet turn darker than other areas of your skin? Are you concerned that this may be a cause for concern? Well, if you are–you’re right! Darkening skin in your feet can be a sign of several different vein conditions. And all of them should be brought to your doctor’s attention.

Why Feet Turn Darker Changes in skin color, when feet turn darker, is a warning for vein disease

For light skinned individuals, several things can cause your feet to turn darker. In fact, feet that are darker than the rest of your skin can be a side effect of varicose veins. When you have varicose veins (incompetent veins that aren’t functioning properly) blood pools in your legs. And that leads to swelling–both in your veins and possibly in your legs themselves. In some instances, red blood cells may leak outside the varicose veins. These cells carry some red pigment that, over time, may turn black in color. When these cells end up in your feet, they may contribute to the darker skin color.

While an abundance of red blood cells may cause your feet to change color, lack of blood flow may also affect the appearance of your feet. As plaque builds up in our bodies due to fat and cholesterol, a condition known as Peripheral Arterial Diesease (PAD) may set in. PAD occurs when plaque sticks to your arteries, narrowing them significantly and thus affecting blood flow throughout your body. With PAD, less oxygen-rich blood may reach your feet. In contrast to skin darkening related to varicose veins, color changes related to PAD are unlikely to be accompanied by swelling. Additionally, your dark feet are likely to feel cold or even numb.

Smoking and Changes in Skin Color

While internal factors can certainly contribute to changes in the color of your feet, it’s also important to examine problems in your own habits. Smokers especially may notice marked changes in their skin color:

  1. Chemicals in cigarettes speed up the aging process, often leaving smokers with uneven skin tone.
  2. Nicotine constricts your blood vessels, restricting oxygen and blood flow to your extremities. This makes smoking especially dangerous for people with vein conditions that already affect blood flow.
  3. Smokers’ wounds take longer to heal. If you smoke, have diabetes and notice your feet turning black, you may be dealing with a dangerous ulcer you haven’t even noticed.

    Cancer, Eczema and Other Potential Culprits

    While all these factors are less common, they could also change the color of your feet. Eczema, when it manifests on your feet can change the color of your skin tone. Another condition called venous eczema, or stasis dermatitis, can also change the color of your feet or legs.  With this inflammatory skin condition, your legs, ankles and feet may swell or show signs of inflammation. Aside from changing color, affected skin can feel dry, irritated and itchy.

    Stasis dermatitis may develop with chronic venous insufficiency, or circulatory problems. But it’s not the only health concern that can change your leg color. Because Kaposi’s sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that forms in lymph and blood vessels, can also make the skin on your feet appear darker due to the lesions that characterize this condition.

Houston Specialists Treating Feet That Turn Darker

Regardless of the reason for the change, when the skin on your feet turns dramatically darker, it should be cause for more than just cosmetic concern. All of the things that change the color of the feet will need medical attention, so this is one symptom you should never dismiss or ignore.

Now, when you come in for your vein consultation, your specialist will give you treatment options. You’ve got many choices when you want to treat varicose veins. But one choice, sclerotherapy, probably won’t be an option. You see, sclerotherapy is mostly a cosmetic treatment.

Of course, this is a great option if all you want is younger looking legs. It’s very effective when you’re dealing with spider veins, but not when you have varicose veins. And, if your feet turn darker, your disease is likely more serious. So you’ll need greater interventions to improve your health, and your leg and foot appearance.

Ready to make a big step towards reversing the skin damage of varicose veins? Come into our office right away. We’ll conduct a thorough examination and figure out your next best course of action.

Sources: Flux Magazine

Stem Cells for Veins May Cure Vein Disease

Could stem cells for veins be the next big innovation in vein disease? Well, the world of vein treatments is constantly evolving, and it seems like every week there’s an exciting new discovery! Recently, Nature magazine revealed a new one: they’ve identified the stem cells responsible for growing new blood vessels in embryos. Why is that so exciting? If the cells can be studied and applied to adults, scientists could also grow healthy new blood vessels. And those vessels could repair or replace old, damaged ones.

New Veins Could Transform Circulatory Treatments

Vein disease sufferers will obviously benefit from newly-grown veins. But so will other people. In fact, this development would improve treatments for heart disease. It could also help manage circulatory conditions like peripheral arterial disease. That’s a crucial development, since untreated PAD can lead to amputation.

Until now, scientists thought that dividing endothelial cells created embryo blood vessels. But this new research proves that the opposite is true. In short, stems cells in the blood create and grow endothelial cells.

Of course,  we can’t yet grow new blood vessels. So we can’t yet apply this discovery to help treat vein disease. In order for that to happen, researchers will have to determine whether the stem cells can grow endothelial cells throughout life. Because there’s a chance this only happens during the embryo stage of development.

Moving Forward with Stem Cells for Veins

Unfortunately, we don’t yet have the methods necessary to track down these tiny stem cells in fully grown humans. And, even once those methods are developed, scientists will need to determine if the endothelial cells that come from these stem cells have their own functions. They will also need to figure out the best way to apply them for use in regenerative medicine.

Even with all the work that’s left to be done, the Associate Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation, Professor Metin Avkiran, is positive about the discovery. He says, “Using stem cells to treat patients with heart and circulatory disease has huge potential. But taking positive findings from the lab to patients has often been very challenging. These scientists have looked at how blood vessels develop in the embryo, and their findings have shed important new light on our understanding of the origin of growing blood vessels. Getting these fundamentals right is essential for finding stem cell treatments that will work in patients. These findings could pave the way to new discoveries in regenerative medicine and allow scientists in the future to grow new blood vessels and repair those that are damaged in many forms of heart and circulatory disease.”

In the meantime, managing vein disease can help prevent serious complications. Ready to get help for varicose veins, poor circulation or other vein health concerns? Schedule an immediate appointment with our Houston area vein specialists!

Sources: University College LondonNature Magazine

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

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