6 Surprising Habits You Didn't Realize Could Cause Varicose Veins

Surprisingly, some of your everyday habits can cause varicose veins. These six are ones you should watch out for if you want to keep them at bay.

If you’ve ever poked and prodded at the enlarged blue or red lumpy lines on your legs, you may have done so while wondering how in the heck you got varicose veins in the first place.

Do your daily habits play a role in causing them? Do you even have any control over their sudden appearance? The answer to both questions is yes.

Your age, genetics, and bodily changes, such as having a baby, can all contribute to varicose veins, but they can also come about as an effect of your everyday lifestyle. 

According to WebMD, although they can be painful and disfiguring, they are usually harmless. When inflamed, they become tender to the touch and can hinder circulation to the point of causing itchiness, swollen ankles, and aching limbs.

Nowadays, doctors use laser treatments to close off smaller spider veins and varicose veins. A strong burst of light is focused on the vein, which causes it to fade slowly and ultimately disappear. 

While varicose veins can’t always be prevented there are some habits you may want to avoid.

1. Crossing your legs


It's a common rumor that crossing your legs can cause varicose veins, but it's only half true.

"Crossing your legs will not, in itself, cause varicose veins," said Dr. James St. George, founder of the St. Johns Vein Center in Jacksonville, Florida. "But it can exacerbate existing conditions that do contribute to varicose veins, particularly if varicose veins run in your family."

2. Standing for long periods of time


If you have a job that involves standing for long periods of times (teacher, cashier, bank teller), you may want to try to move around throughout the day instead of staying stationary. Standing for long periods of time increases the pressure in your veins. The blood collects in your leg veins, which can cause the walls of the veins to weaken and damage the valves. 

3. Running on hard surfaces


Mark Rheudasil, MD, said, "Running or high-impact exercises may make symptoms worse and aggravate varicose vein swelling. If you are an avid runner, try running on grass or on a softer surface like a synthetic track to reduce the stress on your joints and feet, and the strain on your legs. If possible, wear compression stockings when you run."

There's no need to stop altogether, just change up how and where you exercise.

4. Sitting at a desk all day


Many of us spend most of the workday sitting at a desk. Unfortunately, too much sitting can increase your risk of getting varicose veins, not to mention it’s just bad for your health in general. Go for a walk, do some stretches, or just periodically get up and visit a coworker.

5. Eating a high-salt diet


Having your favorite salty snack once in a while is all right, however, you don’t want to munch on your savory treats constantly.

According to the West Florida Vein Center, "When you eat an excess of foods high in sodium, your body’s natural response is to retain more water in order to maintain a healthy ratio of minerals within that water. When the body retains more water, then the volume of blood in the body also increases. This increased blood volume then increases the pressure that the blood is placing on the veins and valves, weakening them over time and causing their appearance to become more prominent under the skin — thus varicose veins develop."

6. Wearing high heels


Dr. Kenneth Harper, founder of Vein Specialists of the South states, "While high heels may help you feel and look more beautiful, they may not be good for your vein health. The higher the heels, the more they negatively affect the venous blood flow." 

Harper isn’t saying that we can’t wear the shoes we love. Instead, he's stating that we should be high-heel-smart by limiting the height of our heels and saving the pumps for special occasions instead of everyday wear. 

When it comes to varicose veins, there is nothing to panic about, however doing things to prevent them is a good idea. Be sure to point out any concerns to your doctor because, in some instances, varicose veins can lead to other health issues down the road. 

Banner/thumbnail image credit: Flickr user Pedro Ribeiro Simões

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