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How to Prevent the Formation of Varicose Veins
Posted by Dr. Ben Kim
Varicose veins are enlarged and often swollen veins that can become visible under the skin of your legs. Prevention of varicose veins best begins with understanding how your veins work.
Your veins are vessels that carry blood from all of the cells of your body to your heart. Whereas your arteries allow your blood to carry oxygen and nutrients to your cells to nourish them, your veins allow your blood to carry carbon dioxide and other waste products away from your cells to prevent them from becoming cluttered with unusable substances.
Clearly, your health is best supported when blood flows strongly and evenly through your blood vessels. Blood is pushed through your arteries and capillaries by the force of each contraction of your heart. But this force weakens considerably by the time that your blood reaches your veins, for the simple reason that your arteries and capillaries are closer to your heart than your veins are.
Fortunately, your body was designed to facilitate steady flow of blood through your veins in the following ways:
- All of your veins contain one-way valves that cause blood to flow toward your heart whenever your veins experience any amount of external or internal force.
- The bulk of your large, deeply located veins are embedded within your muscles. As you go about your activities of daily living, each contraction of your muscles puts some pressure on your veins, which helps to promote blood flow toward your heart.
- Many of your veins travel side-by-side with companion arteries. Each contraction of your heart produces a wave of force through your arteries, and each wave causes the muscular walls of your arteries to pulsate. These visible and palpable pulses can be transmitted to side-lying veins, and can therefore be another steady if not spectacular source of pumping power that keeps blood flowing through your veins.
How Do Varicose Veins Develop?
You can develop varicose veins if your blood does not flow steadily through your veins. Without steady flow, blood can begin to pool in small but significant amounts in your veins, which can cause your veins to enlarge. Hemorrhoids are varicose veins that can appear around your anal sphincter. If you develop varicose veins, chances are that they will appear in your lower extremities.
Why Should You Strive To Prevent The Formation Of Varicose Veins?
- If left unaddressed, they can become painful, especially while you walk or stand.
- Varicose veins can be itchy, to an extent where uncontrollable scratching (usually while sleeping) can lead to ulcer formation.
- Although rare in incidence, varicose veins can be a source of clot material that can break off, travel to your lungs, and cause acute respiratory and cardiovascular challenges.
How Can You Prevent The Formation Of Varicose Veins?
- The most important and obvious requirement for preventing the formation of varicose veins is to build and maintain a healthy cardiovascular system through regular exercise and a plant-centered, minimally processed diet. When your heart is strong and your blood vessels are clean and flexible, your veins stand an excellent chance of experiencing strong and even blood flow. For specific recommendations on how to build and maintain a healthy cardiovascular system, view the following article on diabetes:
- Take care of your liver. A significant portion of your venous blood flow travels through your liver before being returned to your heart (think of your liver as a gas station that refuels your blood with nutrients, to be delivered to your cells). If your liver is stressed on a regular basis, it can begin to degenerate, starting with a state of chronic inflammation, moving on to becoming fatty, and finally transforming into hard, fibrotic, non-functional tissue (cirrhosis). Each of these stages of degeneration can cause pooling of blood in your leg veins, since blood can no longer travel efficiently through your liver.
What are the most important measures that you can take to protect your liver against degeneration? Minimize your exposure to alcohol, acetaminophen, and prescription medication, all of which cause direct insult to your liver cells.
- Take care of your lungs. All of the blood that is returned to your heart from your venous system is sent to your lungs, where fresh oxygen is added, to be delivered to your cells. If you develop lung disease, the flow of blood between your heart and lungs can be strained, which can ultimately be enough of an roadblock to cause blood to pool in your veins, much like a sick liver can.
Safeguarding the health of your lungs requires that you minimize your exposure to all kinds of dust (especially those that are produced by sanding construction materials like drywall mud and treated wood) and tobacco. It's easy to overlook the importance of breathing in only fresh air and avoiding invisible or very fine airborne pollutants. Please do some research on the health challenges faced by many 9/11 Ground Zero workers to understand how critical the air you breathe is to your respiratory and overall health.
- Ensure intake of foods that are rich in vitamin C and flavonoids. Vitamin C and flavonoids are essential to building and protecting strong blood vessels that can weather some of the stressors that can lead to varicose veins and associated problems.
Acerola cherries are an excellent food source of the full vitamin C complex.
Raw chocolate is the single best food source of flavonoids that I know of.
If you already have varicose veins, two additional measures that may be helpful in healing your enlarged veins are:
- Lie on your back and elevate your legs by resting them against the wall, a chair or a couch. Let gravity be your friend.
- Ask your doctor to prescribe graduated compression stockings that you can wear to exert pressure of 30–40 mmHg to your legs.
Note: Varicose veins that result from pregnancy are usually due to increased pressure by the growing womb on the inferior vena cava, one of the two largest veins in your body. With adherence to the food and lifestyle choices that are outlined in this article, most varicose veins that form during pregnancy dissipate on their own as the mother returns to her pre-pregnancy lifestyle.
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