Whether you have varicose veins currently or if you have some of the risk factors and want to minimize your risks and potential complications, there are safe and effective ways to improve your vein health. Following are simple lifestyle habits proven to improve vein health and reduce symptoms of varicose veins.
Eat Lots of Fiber
High fiber intake has a protective effect against blood clot formation or thromboembolism by decreasing levels of clotting factors in the blood. In one study, participants in the highest 20% of fruit and vegetable intake, which provide a natural source of dietary fiber, had a 23% lower incidence of venous thromboembolism compared to those in the lowest 20%.
Diets low in fiber also cause constipation, which leads to more straining and greater intraabdominal pressure to pass a stool compared to diets with abundant amounts of fiber. As a result, low fiber diets are associated with an increased risk for varicose veins in the abdomen.
One of the easiest ways to bump up your fiber intake is to replace processed carbohydrates with whole fruits, vegetables, and grains. Whole grain breads and pastas are available in a variety of delicious and creative options. At lunch or for a snack, enjoy a crunchy apple or savor a pungent orange rather than reaching for a jar of juice. Also, when possible, avoid peeling fruits and vegetables, such as cucumbers, carrots, and potatoes. This is where most of the vitamins and minerals are stored so it will increase your intake of essential nutrients in addition to adding fiber to your diet. Another diet “hack” that will help you consume more fiber and may pique your appetite for vegetables is to eat your salad before, rather than with the entre. This simple step has been shown to increase veggie consumption by 23% while reducing total calorie consumption by 11%.
Staying hydrated is vital for vein and vascular health in many important ways. Dehydration decreases total blood volume and makes the blood thicker, more difficult to move through the veins, and more prone to forming clots. In one study, levels of the cellular energy-generating molecule ATP were found to be diminished during exercise in dehydrated participants compared to hydrated ones. Lower blood volume when you are dehydrated also results in increased constriction of arteries which contributes to lower blood volume in the veins.
If you tend to forget to drink enough water or if hydration is not high on your priority list it’s worth making the effort to adopt healthier, more hydrating habits, such as:
- Flavoring your water with a splash of citrus to make it more appealing.
- Choosing hydrating foods like smoothies, soups, and salads, which add a substantial amount of water to your diet.
- Cutting back or eliminating dehydrating beverages such as coffee, soda, and alcohol (always drink alcohol in moderation) or remembering to drink an equal amount of pure water along with those beverages to offset their dehydrating effects.
Exercise that moves your ankle joints and strengthens the calf muscles can improve venous return and reduce symptoms of varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency. Venous refilling time, the amount of time it takes for the lower leg veins to fill with blood after the muscular pump has pushed blood out, improves during and after exercise, according to research. In patients with mild venous insufficiency, exercise can improve venous reflux, muscle strength, and ankle range of motion, and patients report improvements in their quality of life. Exercise works quickly, too. In one study, a significant reduction of venous reflux was measured within one minute after participants performed 30 repetitions of toe lifts (lifting up onto tiptoes).
A variety of simple exercises can help improve vein function and reduce varicose vein symptoms. Walking is one of the best exercises because it utilizes the calf muscles. Also, swimming, bicycling, and dancing top the list of helpful exercises for promoting venous return from the legs. In between active exercise sessions add in a few sessions of seated ankle rotations and foot paddling (alternating pointing and flexing your toes and ankles), standing toes raises (rising onto your toes), toe walking (walking on your tiptoes for a few steps), and standing or seated hamstring stretches. Always seek your doctor’s guidance and approval when starting a new exercise program or advancing an existing routine.
Eat a Healthy Diet
While you might not be able to avoid varicose veins if you have a strong genetic predisposition, good nutrition can reduce your symptoms and decrease your chances of developing serious complications such as venous leg ulcers. Many patients with venous leg ulcers tend to consume diets higher in fat, sodium, and sugar and lower in vitamins C, A, E, carotene, and zinc, according to research[11,12]. More than 25% of older patients with venous ulcers have also been found to be deficient in albumin, a blood protein that helps maintain healthy fluid balance in the bloodstream. Nutritional supplementation along with a healthy diet can lessen the risk for venous ulcers and speed recovery if they occur.
Eating well can be satisfying and rewarding, particularly when you begin to see and feel the benefits. Transitioning to a healthier, more nutrient dense diet is most effective when approached gradually over time. With the help of your doctor or a nutritionist, identify areas of your diet that can be improved and take a stepwise approach. Swapping a more nutritious food for a less nutritious one might be easier than eliminating a favorite food or category of foods cold turkey. For example, replace unhealthy saturated or trans fats with healthier coconut or olive oil or replace meat in a favorite recipe with a serving of beans.
Look for ways to boost the healthfulness of your regular menu items, such as adding a handful of spinach to your morning omelet or a scoop of plant-based protein powder to a fruit smoothie. Once a new habit is established look for another part of your diet where you can add a serving of fresh fruit or vegetable.
Make It a Habit to Wear Compression Stockings
Many varicose vein patients report experiencing symptom improvement from wearing compression stockings. Significant reduction in vein diameter and measurable improvements in vein function have also been documented. Compression stockings increase levels of the blood vessel-relaxing compound nitric oxide, and reduce levels of pro-inflammatory molecules, leading to improved endothelial function, less oxidative stress, and decreased risk for blood clot formation. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines recommend compression stockings as a first-line therapy in pregnant women. Commonly, it is recommended to wear stockings that provide 20 to 30 mm Hg of pressure at the lowest part of the stocking with a gradient of decreasing pressure toward the top of the stocking.
Donning compression stockings at the beginning of a work shift can reduce the amount of swelling and symptoms you experience during work and the amount of time you need to spend on recovery measures at the end of the day or between shifts. When traveling on a long airplane flight, compression stockings can also help reduce your risk for developing a blood clot by approximately 90%.
Seek Treatment Early with VenaSeal®
New, minimally invasive varicose vein treatments can resolve varicose veins in their early stages with little to no pain and virtually no downtime needed for recovery. You don’t have to put off treatment, put your life on hold, or spend years suffering increasingly worsening symptoms. VenaSeal®, one of the most effective of these treatments, uses a medical adhesive to seal off affected veins. VenaSeal® is performed in-office in under an hour using local anesthesia. After the procedure, you’ll be able to walk out of the office and resume your normal activities immediately. And, the VenaSeal® adhesive is injected through tiny incisions so there is no scarring.
Desert Vein and Vascular Institute is the top provider of VenaSeal®, the leading outpatient varicose vein treatment, in the USA. All of our physicians are board-certified vascular surgeons who specialize in helping people improve their vascular health. Schedule a free consultation today by calling 1-800-VARICOSE (1-800-827-4267).
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- Greater fish, fruit, and vegetable intakes are related to lower incidence of venous thromboembolism: the Longitudinal Investigation of Thromboembolism Etiology. Circulation, 2007. 115(2): p. 188-95
- The Farm Bill, hemp legalization and the status of CBD: An explainer. Available from:
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- Acquired risk factors of venous thromboembolism in medical patients. Pathophysiol Haemost Thromb, 2006. 35(1-2): p. 128-32
- Haemodynamic responses to dehydration in the resting and exercising human leg. Eur J Appl Physiol, 2013. 113(6): p. 1499-509
- New Insights Into the Impact of Dehydration on Blood Flow and Metabolism During Exercise. Exerc Sport Sci Rev, 2017. 45(3): p. 146-153
- Physical exercise for the treatment of non-ulcerated chronic venous insufficiency. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2016. 12: p. CD010637
- The impact of exercise training on calf pump function, muscle strength, ankle range of motion, and health-related quality of life in patients with chronic venous insufficiency at different stages of severity: a systematic review. J Vasc Bras, 2021. 20: p. e20200125
- The immediate effect of physical activity on ultrasound-derived venous reflux parameters. J Vasc Surg Venous Lymphat Disord, 2020. 8(4): p. 640-645
- Nutrition and Lower Extremity Ulcers: Causality and/or Treatment. Int J Low Extrem Wounds, 2017. 16(4): p. 238-243
- Patients with chronic leg ulcers show diminished levels of vitamins A and E, carotenes, and zinc. Dermatol Surg, 1999. 25(8): p. 601-4
- Compression stockings for the initial treatment of varicose veins in patients without venous ulceration. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2013(12): p. CD008819
- Impact of compression stockings on calf-vein diameters and on quality of life parameters in subjects with painful legs. Vasa, 2014. 43(4): p. 268-77
- Compression stockings attenuate the expression of proteins associated with vascular damage in human varicose veins. J Vasc Surg Venous Lymphat Disord, 2021. 9(2): p. 428-434
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- Graduated compression stockings as a prophylactic measure in venous thromboembolism and edema of lower limbs triggered by air travel: a systematic review of clinical trials. J Vasc Bras, 2021. 20: p. e20200164