Venous insufficiency refers to a condition where blood flow through your veins travels in an inefficient manner, often causing it to back up and pool in the distal extremities. There are several types of vein disorders leading to venous insufficiency, with most being the result of either blood clots (deep vein thrombosis) or varicose veins.
In some cases, valves that control blood flow to the heart become damaged, leading to backflow of blood. This leads the distal veins to become overfilled, becoming engorged into the surrounding tissue, leading to tissue breakdown and venous skin ulcers.
While several factors leading to venous insufficiency may be related to family history and genetics, there are still several things you can do to lower your chance of developing the condition. Obtaining certain nutrients from you diet goes a long way to keeping arteries and veins strong and elastic, promoting overall healthy veins and vascular system. By implementing some simple changes in your life, combined with a little willpower, you can take control of your health.
Achieving healthy veins and avoiding venous insufficiency
Our vascular system is a delicate system of arteries and veins that help provide tissue and organs with oxygen and nutrient-rich blood, vital for our survival. Unfortunately, as we age, these blood vessels may become compromised, leading to their dysfunction. If left untreated, it could lead to a variety of complications or even become life-threatening.
While not all cases of venous insufficiency can be treated on your own, what follows are some things you can incorporate into your daily routine to help preserve healthy veins.
Fill your plate with color: This refers to eating more fruits and vegetables, which often exhibit bright and lively colors. Bioflavonoids are commonly found in the rinds of green citrus fruits and in black currants and are known for supporting blood circulation. The abundance of antioxidants that fruits and vegetables contain help to diminish swelling and strengthen collagen. The most popular fruits and vegetables containing essential nutrients includes strawberries, broccoli, mangoes, papaya, spinach, and garlic.
Eat more fiber: Having an adequate amount of fiber in the diet not only helps to regulate digestion, but even reduces your risk of high cholesterol; a key contributor to unhealthy veins. It is recommended to intake 21–25 grams of fiber per day for women and 30–38 grams of fiber per day for men. Replacing commonly eaten daily items such as white bread and sugary snacks with more fiber-rich alternatives, such as whole wheat bread and fruits, is a great way to stay consistent. Other great sources of grain-based fibers include oatmeal, barley, brown rice, and air-popped popcorn.
Drink more water: Staying hydrated is important for our health and can even help with symptoms of varicose veins. Water helps to flush out harmful toxins from the body and even lubricates stool for easy excretion. It is important to start your day off right by drinking at least a cup of water in the morning, as you tend to be dehydrated upon awakening. It is also a good idea to keep a bottle of water close by throughout the day just in case thirst strikes.
Cut down on sodium: While sodium (salt) is an essential part of balanced nutrition, consuming too much of it can be harmful. In these modern times of fast food and pre-packaged goods, excess sodium consumption has become a real problem, as it is commonly added to enhance flavor. Too much sodium can make you retain water, increase blood pressure, and eventually lead to unhealthy veins. It is advised to read nutrition labels before purchasing them has may products contain hidden sodium.
Avoid BPA: Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical found in the lining of some cans and plastic bottles and is thought to have the potential for seeping into food and drink. Studies have shown that chronic exposure to BPA is associated with the development of heart disease and hypertension. BPA has also been linked with a higher risk of developing spider veins.
Omega-3 fatty acids: Found in fish oil, various types of nuts, and some types of seeds. This consumable substance can help lower high triglyceride levels, effectively decreasing your risk for heart disease. Omega-3’s are also great for curbing stiffness and joint pain in rheumatoid arthritis. It can also boost the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory medications. Omega-3 fatty acids can affect the flexibility of arteries, helping to reduce arterial stiffness in older adults.
Vitamin C: One of the most common antioxidants available, as it is found if virtually all types of fruits and vegetables. It can help protect the heart, blood vessels, and other tissues from damage caused by toxins called free radicals. The vitamin is also a vital component for the formation of collagen, a protein required to keep the walls of arterial and venous blood vessels strong. Only a small amount of vitamin C is needed daily—90 milligrams for men and 75 milligrams for women.
Lose weight: Carrying excess pounds not only affects self-esteem in a negative way but does the same to health. Many studies have linked obesity to the development varicose veins, with even a modest increase of in weight gain in women (BMI = 25.0–29.9 kg/m2) having a 1.5-fold increased risk of varicose veins compared to non-overweight women. Women with a BMI >30 have about a 3-fold greater risk.
Exercises for Venous Insufficiency
Exercise can play an important role in treating venous insufficiency because it keeps the muscles in your legs strong, which can help blood to move up the veins rather than just pooling. Here are some helpful exercises you can partake in that can help keep your leg muscles strong.
- Flexing: Extend your leg and flex your foot back and forth as a means of improving your circulation.
- Calf Raises: Weak calves can be a contributing factor to venous insufficiency. Calf raises are done by standing up and lifting your heels off the ground, so you feel a stretch in your calf. You can do this at any time, even if you’re waiting in a line-up.
- Walking: The simple act of walking causes the muscles in your legs to contract to push blood upwards in the veins. Regularly walking helps maintain a healthy weight.
- Bicycling: The motion of cycling helps to promote circulation along with maintaining a healthy weight. Either bike outdoors or use an indoor stationary bike to strengthen your leg muscles.
- Swimming: If your legs are painful or even low-impact exercises cause pain, then swimming or water aerobics still strengthens muscles without the harsh impact on your joints.
Although the listed exercises can help improve venous insufficiency, there are other exercises which are not as beneficial and therefore should be avoided. Exercises to avoid if you have venous insufficiency include exercises that increase intra-abdominal pressure. Examples of these exercises include weight lifting, crunches, sit-ups, prolonged yoga poses, and lunges, to name a few.
High-impact exercises like running should also be avoided because they increase blood flow to the legs, which can aggravate venous volume, pressure, and swelling.
Having long-term venous insufficiency can lead to detrimental health complications if left untreated. It may take the aid of a medical professional to get the appropriate level of treatment required for your current illness. However, if you begin early, you can prevent venous insufficiency by adhering to a healthy vein lifestyle.