People who deal with varicose or spider veins often have questions about exercise. Is it safe? And which exercises are best for slowing the progression? Dr. Jennifer Watson is from the Spectrum Health Medical Group Vein Center, and she joined us to talk about the importance of maintaining healthy legs and an active lifestyle. Dr. Watson said there are various causes for varicose and spider veins:
- Age: As you get older, your veins can lose elasticity causing them to stretch. The valves in your veins may become weak, allowing blood that should be moving toward your heart to flow backward. The veins appear blue because they contain deoxygenated blood, which is in the process of being recirculated through the lungs.
- Pregnancy: Some pregnant women develop varicose veins. Pregnancy increases the volume of blood in your body, but decreases the flow of blood from your legs to your pelvis. Varicose veins that develop during pregnancy generally improve without medical treatment within three months after delivery.
- Obesity: Being overweight can make it harder for your heart to pump blood
- Lack of movement: Sitting or standing for a long time may force your veins to work harder to pump blood to your heart. This may be a bigger problem if you sit with your legs bent or crossed.
- Sun exposure: This can cause spider veins on the cheeks or nose of a fair-skinned person.
Dr. Watson said even athletes and healthy people can have varicose and spider veins. In fact, some exercises (like weightlifting) can increase your risks of having varicose veins or other vein diseases. She said, diseased veins are most commonly associated with prolonged sitting or standing careers, hereditary factors, and pregnancy. However, even if you are at high risk for vein disease, there are principles you can follow to help maintain healthy veins for life, with exercise being most important. Despite varicose veins sometimes being hereditary, Dr. Watson said there are ways you can reduce the risks of them appearing:
· Maintain a healthy weight so as not to put undue stress on your legs.
· Ensure you have good footwear and don't run in shoes which are past their best.
· Keep mobile when you are not running. Flex your calves, rotate your ankles.
· Maintain a good posture and don't cross your legs (this can restrict circulation).
· Make use of compression wear for your legs, especially your calves.
· Be sure to make time to relax and put your feet up sometimes! Putting your legs up against a wall after a run is a good way to help them recover. Prop them up on a pillow now and again. We make our legs work so hard for us when we run. We can return the compliment by looking after them!
Spectrum Health offers free screenings for varicose and spider veins.
Spectrum Health Medical Group Vein Center
4069 Lake Drive, Suite 114
Grand Rapids, MI
For more information, visit www.spectrumhealth.org/veincenter
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