A few years ago, I was hanging out with some friends on a hot summer day. One of them turned to me and said “your veins look like a roadmap.”
It was kind of true. The veins all down my forearms where clearly visible and protruding from my skin.
My friend thought it looked gross.
I told him that at least I knew they were healthy. I had just eaten a snack and it was like we were watching the nutrients being delivered through my body. My veins expanded, blood easily rushed through them, and shortly thereafter, they shrunk.
Obviously, this is a bit extreme. I was rather lean at the time and vascularity was very pronounced.
But really, that is how healthy veins operate. They are relaxed and loose, allowing blood to move through easily. When that’s happening, there is less pressure on your heart and a lower risk for high blood pressure or a cardiovascular event.
Much like anything else, there are behaviors that promote healthy veins and others that diminish their functionality.
Diet and exercise are two of the biggest contributors to vein health.
A nutritious diet helps in a number of ways. Healthy foods like fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and healthy fats, as well as unprocessed meats, can all serve various functions that help your veins.
Some of them feature compounds that cause your body to produce nitric oxide, a natural chemical that expands and relaxes veins to encourage better blood flow. Others are high in fiber or HDL (good) cholesterol that help remove “bad” LDL cholesterol from blood vessel walls.
Most of these foods will also help fight inflammation that can lead veins to tighten up and limit their ability to expand. Processed and sugary foods, along with smoking and a sedentary life, contribute to harder and more rigid veins and arteries.
Exercise also promotes nitric oxide and healthier veins. When blood is pumping through your veins, they have no choice but to accommodate. Exercise is truly the best way to improve vein health.
Healthy veins contribute to a healthy heart and overall health. Think about that next time you’re at the grocery store or settling in for an extended sit down.