Every beach-goer wants to know: can you prevent varicose veins? The short answer, unfortunately, is no.
Now, let’s get into it. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, you can’t completely avoid varicose veins if that’s the genetic hand you’ve been dealt. But you can delay them and you can also prevent the ones you have from getting worse.
The first step is to do three things we all should be doing anyway—exercise, eat well and stay at a healthy weight. Exercise works by improving muscle tone, allowing blood to move more freely through your veins. By eating lots of fruits, veggies and whole grains, you can help prevent constipation, which can make varicose veins worse, and eating a low-salt diet helps prevent swelling. Losing weight helps improve blood flow, which takes pressure off of veins.
Take a look at what you wear. Is your clothing tight around your waist or upper thighs? Do you frequently wear high heels? Both can exacerbate the condition.
This can be tough depending on your line of work, but it’s a good idea to avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time. If you have a desk job, don’t cross your legs at the knees and take breaks to walk around. If you must stand all day, try to remember to shift your weight from side to side and consider wearing compression stockings.
And when it’s time to kick back at night, try to do so on a couch or a recliner so that you can elevate your legs. It’s even better if you raise them so they’re higher than your heart. In fact, it’s a good idea to try to elevate your legs three times a day for 15 minutes each time.
Varicose veins can make your legs feel heavy or achy, but they don’t usually pose a health risk. In very severe cases, pressure can cause the blood to penetrate through weak areas of the vein walls and bleed into tissue, which causes a brown discoloration. Infection also can be a concern.
For most people, though, varicose veins are more of a cosmetic issue. The good news is treatment has advanced significantly in recent years and veins usually can be taken care of on an outpatient basis with endovenous ablation therapy, which uses lasers or radio waves to close off varicose veins. Vein stripping, which used to be the only solution for varicose veins, is now only used for very severe cases.
If you’re vain about your veins, the even better news is that insurance often covers treatment. Endovenous ablation therapy is quick, relatively painless and effective. In fact, the biggest drawback most patients report is having to wear compression stockings for the week following the procedure.