Your leg is swelling and sore. Your foot is cold and throbbing, especially after you’ve been sitting for awhile. Nothing out of the ordinary happened to cause your pain, so what could it be? The answer: You need to improve your vein health.
The fact is, it’s easy to find things to do to help build muscle, lose weight or reduce stress in our lives. But how often have you thought, “Gee, I need to remember to get my vein workout in today”? Probably never.
Improve your vein health before seeing a doctor by doing a few simple things.
You’ve Got to Move It, Move It
One thing that can cause poor circulation is sitting too much. Desk jobs will do that to you. Long car rides or flights can cause it, too, but there’s an easy fix—move.
With healthy circulation, veins carry the blood away from the lower legs and up to the heart. But prolonged sitting or standing makes it harder for your body to maintain upward blood flow. What doesn’t go up, stays down in your legs and pools. That’s what causes the swelling, usually in your feet and ankles first.
The easiest way to combat this is to walk more. Even walking a snail-like pace of 1 mph would burn twice the calories of sitting and get your blood flowing. All it takes is 30 minutes a day, five days a week, but doing a little less still will provide benefits.
In fact, the benefits will go to your head. A recent study found that the foot's impact during walking sends pressure waves through the arteries that increases blood flow to the brain.
If you find yourself sitting too much during the day, you also can do things like:
- Stand up at least every 30 minutes
- Regularly change posture
- Walk to see colleagues instead of emailing
- Hold walking meetings
Walking also has been shown to help people with peripheral artery disease, and one of its most common symptoms, claudication.
Rebounding (And We’re Not Talking Basketball)
Believe it or not, one exercise you can do to improve your vein health is bouncing on a mini trampoline. It’s called rebounding. Rebounding reduces blood pooling in veins and promotes circulation.
NASA studied its benefits in 1980 and found more ups than downs. So did the American Council on Exercise when it studied rebounding last year. Researchers say bouncing on a mini trampoline for less than 20 minutes is just as good for you as running.
It’s also good for people who are overweight, or have bad knees or ankles. Some women even use it to treat varicose veins. In just five minutes, three times a day, you can improve your blood flow, and ultimately, your health.
Yoga is another low-impact way to improve circulation. Several poses will compress and decompress the veins in your legs and use gravity to promote blood flow. They include downward dog, warrior II and legs up the wall.
Researchers at the University of Texas backed up the blood-flow benefits with their study that found yoga improves circulation, relieves stress and energizes your body.
Change Your Diet
What we eat often affects how our body works. Your veins are no exception. Some foods that you can work into your diet—especially foods high in vitamin C, like oranges—promote blood flow. Vitamin C is thought to act as a natural blood thinner.
Other foods that improve blood flow include:
- Beets/beet juice. Beets are rich in nitrates, which help increase blood flow and get oxygen to the muscles quicker.
- Salmon. A deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids can result in poor circulation. Salmon is packed with omega 3 fatty acids.
- Peppers. Hot peppers (cayenne, chili) improve circulation.
- Radishes. Radishes are rich in minerals, including potassium, which helps with blood flow.
Poor circulation isn’t a condition by itself. Instead, it results from other health issues. Therefore, it’s important to treat the underlying causes, rather than just the symptoms.
Be sure to talk to your doctor to find out what exercises or foods will work best to improve your circulation, especially if you’re experiencing symptoms.