It is not something you hear a lot about but the health of your veins in your legs can be affected by a number of other common conditions, which are becoming more prevalent in Singapore such as diabetes, obesity and coronary heart disease. Genetics, especially in females, also play a role to some extent with vein problems and ageing and pregnancy are also risk factors. Vein issues especially in the legs are more common than you think and affect millions worldwide especially as you get older and can affect people as young as 20!
There is around 97000 km of vasculature in the adult body if they were all laid out in a line, which could circumvent the earth (circumference approximately 40,000 km) twice over so you can imagine there are many potential points of problems in holding up blood supply!
Veins act as the “road home” of blood from the legs to the heart. Do not confuse this with the arteries which are the supply chain of blood from the heart to the legs. Veins use “one way valves” very much like signalling traffic lights, to help blood circulate back from the legs to the heart and once these valves become faulty, this slows the traffic of blood back centrally to the heart with a backlog of blood in the leg veins, enlarging them and causing trouble such as swelling, tiredness and cramps. Once you can see these bulging veins on your legs, they are termed varicose veins and is a result of increased pressure in your legs as you stand for long periods of time. Gravity here is not your friend, unfortunately!
Professions susceptible to developing vein problems in your legs:
1. People in the retail line – standing up for most of the day (8-12 hrs) is heroic but not helpful to your veins
2. People in the F&B industry such as restauranteurs and chefs for the same reasons
Even those professions who are more sedentary such as accountants and administration, with their legs down on the floor, maybe susceptible albeit to a lesser extent than those always on their feet for most of the day!
So how can you improve the health of your veins?
1. Stay active
Regular exercise is always touted but this activates the muscles in your legs to push the blood back up to the heart! Flexing and extending your knees regularly can help the blood pumping action. Walking in the swimming pool with the pressure of the water around your legs (no need to swim if you don’t want to)
2. Keep well hydrated
Especially in the temperate climate of Singapore you can become dehydrated easily making the blood thicker and flow less easily making vein problems worse in your legs
3. Eat healthily
Fruits and vegetables, salmon (Omega rich) are excellent for the health of the vein walls to keep them elastic to pump the blood. Foods rich in flavonoids such berries, oranges, tomatoes, kale and tea help with improving the tone of the veins in the legs allowing more efficient pumping. More excuse for drinking more red wine and dark chocolate, which have decent amounts of flavonoids in!
4. Don’t smoke!
Smoke damages the vein walls and can lead to hardening and narrowing of the arteries at the same time! The nicotine and chemicals in the smoke also cause the blood to thicken and clot
5. Elevate your legs
Leg elevation is a great activity after a long day at work or after a long walk, to help boost your circulation. Even activities such as shopping can cause undue stress on your veins. If you are suffering from the beginning stages of varicose veins, try elevating your legs or evening out your body to a flat position.
6. Use compression stockings
Great daily treatment for people with varicose veins especially those with long standing jobs. These socks help contract the veins from the outside around your calf to help push blood back to your heart, lessening pain, swelling, tiredness and progression of vein disease. They come in different patterns or colours so no worries about keeping your dress sense.
7. Seek specialist treatment
If you start noticing symptoms such as tiredness, fatigue easily after a day’s work, heaviness, leg or ankle swelling, restless legs with cramps especially at night and even notice new veins popping up on the surface of your legs, this would be the time to seek a vein evaluation by your local friendly vascular surgeon.