Your Second Heart
The appearance of varicose veins often cause concern among women. In most cases, bugling blue vessels alone are generally benign and of minimal medical concern.* Most varicose veins respond with a few simple modifications, but generally do not resolve completely. So prevention is key.
Veins are blood vessels that carry blood back to the heart. Tiny valves inside large veins move the blood in one direction ~ toward the heart. Gravity, however, challenges the strength of valves in legs. As valves weaken, blood backs-up and vessel walls stretch, giving way to the characteristic lumpy, purple-blue appearance at the skin’s surface. Standing and sitting for long periods, usually worsen varicose veins.
The synchronized motion of walking actually rescues the overworked valves by massaging the vessels to push blood flow upward. Walking leg muscles act as the lower body’s second heart to efficiently help pump blood in the right direction.
For achiness, resting with feet elevated at or above heart level lessens vein stress. Compression stockings (TED hose) offer additional support for leg circulation. Follow size charts while selecting compression stockings.
Varicose veins happen in other areas, too, such as rectum (hemorrhoids) and vulva. These can be especially problematic in pregnancy, as the weight of the baby adds to pelvic congestion. Again, walking is helpful. Dietary fiber and plenty of water for hemorrhoids, and maternity belts and pelvic floor exercises for vulvar veins can minimize symptoms. Good news: most enlarged veins improve after pregnancy when body weight returns to normal. Bad news: New stresses make these weak veins bulge again.
Bottom line: Keep walking.
*When practical tips no longer relieve achiness or symptoms become severe or swelling, skin discoloration or numbness/tingling develop, other interventions may be necessary. Readers are asked to use common sense and present concerns to their health care provider.