An estimated 3.7 million Canadians have varicose veins, with women twice as likely as men to develop varicosities.
Varicose veins can appear anywhere in the body where veins exist. Approximately 95% of varicose veins occur in the lower limbs. Some more serious conditions such as chronic venous insufficiency is oftentimes related to the appearance of many varicose veins, and characterized by a discoloration of the calf and ankle.
In the legs, there are two systems of veins.
- There is the deep venous system that is responsible for draining 90% of the blood to the heart.
- And then there is the superficial venous system responsible for draining the remaining 10%.
Varicose veins are enlarged, bulging veins that most often occur in the legs. When veins are healthy, there are tiny valves that help the leg work against gravity so that it pushes the blood back to the heart. When valves weaken, it can cause blood to leak backwards and pool which creates the bulging varicose veins. Even though varicose veins often bulge above the surface of the skin, they are not always visible.
Many symptoms can be experienced with this such as achiness, swelling, heaviness, throbbing and itching in the legs. These can all be very uncomfortable and cause a certain level of disability and a decreased quality of life.
The most common risk factors can include family history, aging, hormonal imbalances, being overweight or obese, and working at jobs requiring prolonged standing.
What makes varicose veins worse?
- Prolonged sitting or standing. It is harder for the blood in your legs to travel against gravity if you're staying in one position for too long. Being stagnant causes the pressure in your veins to rise. So if you're stuck sitting at a desk all day, reminding yourself to get some movement in once in a while can be beneficial. Without necessarily getting up every 20 min, you can peddle your feet, stretch your ankles and bend your knees to help move the blood around and increase circulation.
- Obesity and poor diet. Being overweight causes higher pressure onto the veins, which is one aggravating factor for varicose veins. Also, foods that are denatured and overly processed are to avoid. Such as refined carbohydrates, added sugar in sweets such as cookies, cakes and chocolate. Salty or sodium rich foods should also be avoided because they cause the body to retain water.
On the other hand, potassium rich foods can help in reducing water retention. These foods includecertain nuts like almonds and pistachios, lentils and white beans, leafy vegetables and potatoes. Using Herbamare in your recipes for a reduced sodium option with the added benefits of natural herbs can be a great idea.
So prioritizing a healthy lifestyle is key to help prevent more damage to your veins. A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, fiber, healthy fats and proteins should be the basis of a healthy lifestyle. Drinking enough water is also important, because proper hydration equates to healthy blood circulation.
- Being sedentary. The body is made to move, and too often nowadays, we stay seated for prolonged hours every day. The most beneficial exercise to prevent varicose veins is walking. Other low impact recommended activities include swimming, cycling and yoga. In yoga, there are poses that bring your feet higher than your heart. These are called inversions, and they include a headstand, shoulder stand, and Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose. All can get the blood flowing in the right direction.
- Poor sleeping positions for pregnant women. Because varicose veins often present themselves during pregnancy. Sleeping on your left side may help prevent varicose veins from forming and ease the symptoms of existing ones. This position helps reduce the pressure the expanding uterus puts on the large vein in the pelvic area, which is placed on the middle-right of the body.
- Tight fitting clothes. These can place more pressure on your legs, which can make varicose veins worse.
A study from 2006 suggests that horse chestnut extract, Aesculus hippocastanum L., may help to reduce leg pain, heaviness, and itching in people with chronic venous insufficiency, which is a major cause of varicose veins. Horse chestnut is the main herbal ingredient in Venaforce products, which come in a variety of formats. The tincture made of the chestnut seeds in liquid form also comes in a tab form. Venaforce tabs were proven to be as effective as support stockings to relieve symptoms of venous insufficiency.
The topical gel was also clinically tested and was rated by 85% of the patients for its effectiveness in relieving symptoms of swelling, heavy and tired legs, tension, pain and burning.The diameter of swollen ankles was reduced
Finally, cypress essential oil can help reduce the swelling in the surface veins and improve the blood flow to your legs. It is styptic, which means that it has the ability to constrict blood vessels, both veins and arteries, thus promoting blood flow in the desired direction. You can add a few drops to a carrier oil and massage directly onto the area where the varicose veins are.