When planning New Year’s resolutions, it’s easy to overdo it. We expect to accomplish admirable goals like losing weight, making more money, getting organized and breaking bad habits, but we may set ourselves up for failure if we try to tackle too many big changes simultaneously. Choosing only one or two goals is often a better place to start, and if we can develop a focused plan then we’re more likely to be successful.
One strategy is to select a single objective that requires accomplishing a series of mini-steps addressing other areas you want to improve. For example, take the goal of “improving vein health.” As far as New Year’s resolutions go, this is probably at the bottom of your list (if it made it on the list at all), but as this article outlines, caring for your veins supports whole-body wellness, which is certainly a top resolution. According to the Cleveland Clinic, around 40% of Americans have venous disease, the causes of which include family history and occupations that require long periods of sitting or standing. Though venous disease is common, taking preventative steps can decrease the likelihood that you’ll suffer from it while increasing your overall health.
Like all of the body’s systems, your veins benefit when you make healthy food choices. Limiting sodium intake, for example, can help prevent the legs and ankles from swelling due to fluid retention in the cells, and also helps maintain healthy blood pressure throughout the body. This doesn’t mean limiting yourself to flavorless food, but rather trying to keep your daily sodium intake under a teaspoon (2300 mg), which is what the American Heart Association recommends.
Another smart dietary choice for vein health is consuming more fresh produce and unprocessed foods. Many of these foods – such as leafy greens, nuts, seeds, legumes and minimally processed whole grains – contain vitamins that support good circulation. Vitamin E, which helps prevent blood platelets from sticking together and to vein walls, is found in foods like spinach, almonds, sunflower seeds, winter squashes and avocados. Produce high in vitamin C – such as bell peppers, kiwi, berries and citrus fruits – can strengthen blood vessel walls and fight inflammation. Of course, these vitamins support many other important functions in our bodies, so you’ll be helping more than your veins by increasing your intake.
Following the dietary suggestions above doesn’t have to be complicated. Check with your personal physician for more specific dietary advice, but, as a general rule, increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables while reducing your consumption of processed foods will help ensure that you’re feeding your veins, and body, with the nutrients needed to thrive. If you are a person who has never really paid much attention to your diet, know that it’s never too late to start! There’s no need to become obsessive or spend a lot of time counting calories and measuring food portions (though these practices can be useful when starting out). As journalist Michael Pollan writes at the beginning of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, a good, simple guideline is: “Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Exercise also supports vein health while boosting your overall wellness. Fortunately, this doesn’t mean spending hours every week at the gym. Any exercise that flexes the feet and calves supports healthy blood flow in the legs. It is this pumping motion that fights gravity and propels blood from the feet back up to the heart. So, something as simple as walking 20-30 minutes most days of the week can help prevent the blood from pooling in the legs and causing fatigue, pain and aching. If your job requires you to sit or stand for long periods, make sure to take some breaks to move around and get your circulation moving again. Walking is also one of the best exercises for overall health since it engages the largest muscles, gets the heart pumping and lungs working harder, and is relatively safe and gentle on the joints. Of course, it’s always best to consult with a personal physician before starting a new exercise routine.
This final suggestion is our favorite: put your feet up! Elevating your feet above your heart for 20 minutes takes pressure off your veins and can relieve symptoms like aching and fatigue. This habit can also help reduce overall stress, especially if while lying back you do something quiet that you enjoy like reading a book, listening to music, deep breathing or meditation. Chronic stress increases inflammation throughout the body and contributes to a whole host of problems, so it’s smart to incorporate daily stress-reduction practices in our lives. You might be surprised by how relaxed you feel after doing something so simple.
So, as you look forward to 2019 and think about positive changes you want to make in your life, don’t forget about your veins. Small but consistent changes are best, and integrating the manageable recommendations above into your daily routine will soon lead to healthier habits overall. If you are already experiencing symptoms of venous disease like pain, swelling, fatigue or aching in the legs, or have noticed spider or varicose veins, give us a call or email us. Our caring staff will discuss your concerns with you and can recommend whether coming in for a consultation is a good idea. We are ready to help you start the new year off right, with healthy veins!