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Maintaining Overall Fitness Can Reduce Chances Of Varicose Veins

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Our aging bodies sure do go through a lot of changes: our skin wrinkles, we lose much of our flexibility, our bones thin, and we can't see or hear as well. But there's one change you may be able to avoid by keeping yourself fit: the development of varicose veins.

Your Dynamic Circulatory System

The circulatory system is responsible for delivering oxygenated blood and other dissolved nutrients to all the cells of your body. It does this with the help of a pump (the heart), a couple of aerators (the lungs), and a seemingly endless series of tubes (veins, arteries and capillaries) which transport blood around the body. Your heart, arteries, and lungs respond when more or less oxygen is needed by changing respiration rate, pulse, and muscle tone within the arteries. But your veins have a fairly difficult job as well, especially those within your legs. They must make sure blood makes it back to the heart with very little help from muscle tone; veins are much less muscular than arteries. Instead they make sure blood keeps moving forward with their one-way valves. They rely on the squeezing of muscles in order to propel blood though them.

How Do Varicose Veins Forms?

The veins in your legs are particularly prone to becoming varicose because of how hard they must work against gravity. Over time, the valves of veins can become weak, allowing small amounts of blood to flow backwards. Blood which pools in the legs can easily stretch out veins weakened by age and poor nutrition, causing them to become distended with blood. This distension is what results in a varicose vein.

Excess Weight is a Varicose Vein Risk

Those who are overweight run a greater risk of developing varicose veins for three reasons:

  1. Excess weight puts unneeded pressure on veins, making it harder for them to propel blood upwards to the heart. This pressure weakens both the tube part of veins and their valves.
  2. Those who are overweight often get that way from a lack of exercise. Exercise improves circulation, helping to take pressure off veins and encouraging the body to improve vessel tone.
  3. Being overweight also usually results from poor diet. Foods that are high in salt (like the majority of fast foods, TV dinners, and other easy-access foods) cause the body to retain water. This increases blood volume and further strains the circulatory system. Eating foods high in sugar and simple carbohydrates also indirectly causes water retention: these foods require a lot of insulin in order to be absorbed by cells. Insulin inhibits the excretion of salt, causing water retention.

Daily Exercise and Good Nutrition

To prevent the formation of varicose veins it's important to exercise regularly and eat a high-fiber, moderate-salt diet. Exercises that involve the legs (like walking, biking, and swimming) are especially good for strengthening leg veins. Try counting your calories and keeping track of your salt intake. It's amazing how easy it is to go past the recommended 2000 calories a day. Give your hard-working leg veins all the help you can by keeping off excess weight with healthy diet and regular exercise.


Photo Credit: smcgee

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