Did you know that the weather can impact your veins? When days are warmer, people with varicose and spider veins often suffer from increased leg swelling, cramping, itching, and fatigue. On the other hand, cooler weather can help promote better blood circulation, shrink swollen veins, and alleviate painful and uncomfortable symptoms.
Although venous symptoms tend to improve when temperatures drop, relief is usually only temporary. This is because varicose and spider veins are not caused by warm weather: they are caused by underlying vein disease, also known as venous insufficiency.
About Vein Disease
Vein disease occurs when tiny, one-way valves in the veins are placed under strain and become damaged. These damaged valves are unable to efficiently transport blood back to the heart for reoxygenation. Instead, blood begins to pool or flow backwards, most commonly in the legs, ankles, and feet. Vein disease is a progressive condition, meaning that symptoms get worse over time. Each year, approximately 150,000 new patients are diagnosed with chronic venous insufficiency.
8 Tips to Manage your Veins During Winter
As winter approaches, you may be tempted to hide visible veins under thick layers of clothing and eat large quantities of comfort foods. You may even use bad weather as an excuse to avoid exercise. Instead of compromising your vein health, consider these cooler months the perfect time to make important lifestyle changes.
Below, we provide helpful tips on managing your veins this winter. For additional support, we recommend consulting a vein specialist.
Tip #1: Maintain a Healthy Body Mass Index (BMI)
Being obese or overweight is a major risk factor for the development of vein disease. This common health condition can also make vein pain and discomfort even worse. Therefore, losing excess weight is one of the best things you can do to improve the health of your veins.
That said, we recognize that losing weight is almost always easier said than done. To help you achieve your weight loss goals, we suggest talking to your doctor about effective strategies. They may recommend using an app to track your eating habits, working with a dietary expert, or joining a medical weight loss program.
Tip #2: Exercise Regularly
Exercise is a powerful tool for managing your vein health. Physical activity promotes better blood circulation, which can help improve vein symptoms and reduce the risk of developing additional problems. For maximum benefit, aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise daily, 5 days per week.
To maintain regularity, we suggest choosing activities that you enjoy, such as taking scenic walks or participating in sports. During inclement weather, you can head to the gym (when safe to do so) or stream a workout class of your choice at home. Recruiting a friend or family member to join you can also be helpful.
If you are new to exercise, be sure to discuss your plans with your doctor. In most cases, they will applaud your efforts to get moving.
Tip #3: Avoid Long Periods of Sitting or Standing
Along with exercising, be sure to move around frequently throughout the day. Not only is this good for your veins, but it can also help warm you up during cold weather.
If you have a job that requires prolonged standing or sitting, try to take breaks as often as possible to walk around. Wearing a smartwatch or fitness device can help track your hourly movement and remind you to change positions.
When you are required to remain in one place, go ahead and stretch or massage your legs, ankles, and feet to get your blood flowing. You can also do exercises like standing calf raises and seated toe flexes, or elevate your legs for 20 minutes to help alleviate symptoms.
Tip #4: Eat a Well-Rounded Diet
It may come as no surprise that what you choose to eat, or not to eat, can impact your vein health. This is particularly important to keep in mind when holiday eating threatens your resolve.
It is generally advised to reach for plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, low-fat dairy, and healthy fats. Try to avoid or limit processed foods, added sugar, sodium, unhealthy fats, alcohol, and caffeine.
For some individuals, dietary modifications offer the added benefit of weight loss. For personalized guidance, consider visiting a registered dietician.
Tip #5: Stay Hydrated
Although fluid recommendations vary based on weight, age, and other factors, everyone’s veins can benefit from being well-hydrated. Drinking enough water can thin your blood, allowing it to flow better throughout your body. Improved blood circulation helps prevent venous insufficiency.
Some individuals find that staying hydrated during winter months is more challenging than at other times of the year. If cold drinks seem unappealing when it’s cold out, try drinking them at room temperature or switching to something warm, like herbal tea.
Tip #6: Quit Smoking
Smoking is unhealthy for a range of reasons, including its negative impact on the heart and lungs. However, you may not be aware that smoking also places undue strain on your veins, potentially contributing to vein disease.
If you are struggling to quit smoking on your own, don’t give up. Instead, explore additional options for support. For example, your doctor can recommend helpful tools or refer you to a smoking cessation program.
Tip #7: Wear Compression Socks
If you have varicose veins or are at risk of developing them, wearing compression socks may be beneficial. The use of compression socks improves blood flow throughout the legs, ankles, and feet. This can alleviate leg swelling and other venous symptoms.
Winter is a great time to add these important garments to your wardrobe as compression socks can also keep you warm and toasty. To ensure proper fit and compression level, ask your doctor for a written prescription.
Tip #8: Consider Vein Treatment
While lifestyle changes can improve the health of your veins, you may also benefit from specialized vein treatment. Along with providing symptomatic relief, treating underlying vein disease can help prevent serious complications. To explore your treatment options, consult a vein specialist.
Wintertime is just around the corner. Enter the season comfortable and confidently by being proactive in your vein management. While these eight lifestyle changes can assist in maintaining and monitoring your vein health, consulting a vein specialist should be your first line of defense. Take control of your quality of life this winter.