Can you prevent varicose veins?

Varicose veins develop for various reasons. Risk factors include age, family history, being a woman, pregnancy, obesity, hormonal replacement or contraception therapy, prolonged sitting or standing, and others. Some of these risk factors — such as family history or age — are harder to avoid than others. But is there a way to prevent varicose veins from forming?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. However, you can prevent existing varicose veins from worsening. You can also live a healthy lifestyle to delay problems with veins as long as possible. Here are a few tips.

Read more: What are varicose veins? »

Standing or sitting in one position for a long time makes it harder for your blood to travel in the leg veins against gravity. This causes the pressure in your veins to rise. This can eventually cause blood to pool around your ankles, and your feet and calves can get swollen and achy.

Moving around will decrease the venous pressure and improve your blood circulation. If you’re stuck at a desk, do small exercises, such as:

  • peddling your feet
  • stretching your ankles
  • bending your knees in a “marching-like” manner

Try to elevate your legs at least three times a day, for 15 minutes at a time. Elevating your feet above the heart breaks the gravity circle. This results in better blood circulation and less ankle swelling.

Check out: Stretches to do at work »

Compression socks and stockings can help to keep your vein valves in the right position. This makes it easier for the veins to function properly and reduces blood pooling, swelling, and pain.

You might experience fewer night cramps after wearing supportive compression during the day. There are various types of compression levels depending on how damaged your veins are. It’s a good idea to talk to your physician when choosing one of the four compression options: mild, moderate, firm, or extra firm.

Varicose veins can develop based on risk factors that you can’t influence. This makes it important to try to practice healthy lifestyle choices to prevent more damage to your veins.

Obesity, with higher pressure inside the veins, is one of the aggravating factors. Eating a healthy diet based on complex carbohydrates, a sufficient amount of protein, and healthy fats is paramount. Avoid foods high in salt, and include foods high in fiber and potassium. Drink enough water throughout the day — proper hydration means healthy blood circulation.

Get tips for living a healthy lifestyle »

The most beneficial exercise to prevent varicose veins is walking.

Yoga is a good option as well. You can practice many poses that bring your feet higher than your heart. These are called inversions, and they include a headstand, shoulder stand, and Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose.

Yoga can also help stretch and tone the deepest muscles in your calves and hamstrings. The deep muscles can, to a certain degree, help the vein valves work properly. Stretching and toning poses include Downward-Facing Dog Pose, most forward-bend poses, and sun salutations.

Other types of beneficial exercise include cycling and swimming.

Learn more: Create a fitness routine that’s full of variety »

Pregnancy is one of the biggest causes of varicose veins.

Sleeping on your left side may help prevent varicose veins from forming and ease the symptoms of existing varicose veins. This sleeping position helps reduce the pressure that your expanding uterus puts on the big vein in your pelvic area, which is located on the middle-right side of your body.

Over time, vein valves tend to get weaker, causing varicose veins to get worse. You can’t do much about your age, gender, or family history. But following a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, staying properly hydrated, and keeping your blood pressure healthy are all aspects within your control.