Preventing varicose veins

It is practically impossible to prevent varicose veins especially if you have a history of them in your family. Plus if you already have varicose veins then it is difficult to stop them from worsening.

However, there are steps you can take to ease the pain and discomfort caused by varicose veins.

Preventative measures

Some of these have been touched upon in our lifestyle changes section which is one of several non-surgical options for varicose veins.

They include:

  • Regular breaks if standing for long periods of time
  • Elevate your legs (raise them off the ground) when sitting or lying down.
  • Regular exercise
  • Maintain a sensible weight
  • Healthy diet
  • Wear compression stockings to prevent your varicose veins from worsening.
  • Avoid high heel shoes and/or tight clothing

All of these are easy to do and will improve your overall health and mental wellbeing.

Regular breaks

This means avoiding standing on your feet for long periods of time. If you have to do this because it is part of your job then try and move around whenever you can or shift your weight from one foot to another.

Try not to stand with your legs locked. Keep the knees nice and loose and move up and down on your toes several times in the day. Flex your calf muscles as well.

This also applies if you sit for a long time. Again, if this is part of your job, for example, if you work in an office then try and have short breaks if possible. Get up and walk around, even to make a cup of tea or coffee.

When sat at your desk avoid crossing your legs at your ankles as this restricts the circulation. Try flexing your calf muscles or jiggling your feet up and down (as if fidgeting) to increase your circulation.

Elevate your legs

Do this if you have been standing up in the same position for a long time. Sit down and place your feet on a stool or lie down and place a cushion underneath your legs.

The aim is to have your feet above the level of your head so that blood will flow from your feet towards your heart.

Keep your legs raised for an hour.

Regular exercise

There are many benefits from taking regular exercise which include helping you to lose weight, become fitter and reducing the risk of serious health problems such as heart disease.

But exercise is also helpful if you have varicose veins. It tones and strengthens the legs muscles as well as improving the circulation. Walking, jogging, cycling, aerobics etc are all good forms of exercise which will improve both your circulation and fitness levels.

Aim to do a minimum of 30 minutes exercise each day.

Maintain a sensible weight

This can be included with your diet and fitness routine. Being overweight or even obese puts a strain on your body which includes varicose veins.

The extra weight increases the pressure on the veins which causes them to become weakened and swollen, thereby restricting the blood supply towards the heart.

So it is in your best interests to lose weight and once you have done to maintain this.

If you are unsure about the best way of doing this then speak to your GP. He/she will recommend a diet and exercise plan which will help you to lose weight slowly and safely.

Healthy diet

This along with weight management and exercise should form part of a healthy lifestyle. Choose a diet which is high in protein, carbohydrate and fibre and low in saturated fat.

The inclusion of fibre is an important one as this will ensure that your digestion works well and reduces the risk of constipation.

One of the problems with constipation is that it causes straining during bowel movements which then puts pressure on the veins surrounding the pelvic region. This pressure weakens the veins and increases the risk of varicose veins.

One example of this is haemorrhoids.

Wear compression stockings

These are very useful at helping treated veins to heal as well as improving your circulation. They work by compressing the muscles in the lower leg which helps your blood to flow up to your heart.

Your GP can prescribe these. Another option is to wear compression tights but you will probably have to purchase these rather than obtaining them via the NHS.

Find out more about these in our compression stockings section.  

Avoid high heel shoes

They may make your legs look great but wearing high heels for a long period of times causes problems with circulation. They force you to use the muscles in the buttocks to walk rather than the legs which do not help blood flow.

Choose flat shoes or shoes with a small heel. If you find it difficult to give up your high heels then reduce the amount of time you wear them. Alternate them with a flat pair of shoes and elevate your legs after wearing them.

This similarly applies to tight clothing. Restrictive clothing also restricts blood flow which aggravates varicose veins.

Choose loose fitting clothing instead.

Are there any other steps you can take?

Other suggestions include taking Vitamin C capsules/tablets which may strengthen the walls of the veins; choosing an oral contraceptive which does not relax the veins; consider natural remedies such as acupuncture.  

If you already apply any of these preventative measures but notice that your varicose veins have worsened, or are generally concerned about them then speak to your GP.

Guide to Varicose Veins

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