It seems to be part of human nature that most people don’t think about their health until a problem develops. However, when people become interested in learning how to live a healthy lifestyle, or want to prevent their symptoms from worsening, they can feel overwhelmed by the vast amount of conflicting information available. There are a few well-established guidelines like exercising, eating fruits and vegetables, and drinking enough water, but they seem so simple – could they really be effective? Read on to learn more about nutrition for healthy veins.
The body’s systems work together, and this interdependency means that caring for one system can promote our health overall. One often overlooked but important system is the network of veins that move oxygen-rich blood throughout our bodies. Making healthy decisions for our veins is important, and fortunately there are simple habits that will benefit not only our veins but the rest of us as well. By implementing any of the following suggestions, you can feel good knowing that you’re not only supporting your veins, but also boosting health in your body’s other systems.
Many doctors recommend a low-sodium, high-fiber diet. Excess sodium causes cells to retain water, which often results in the legs and ankles swelling. This extra fluid can create discomfort or exacerbate symptoms that are already present. It also increases blood pressure, adding stress to varicose veins.
There are two steps to keeping sodium in check: accurate counting and consistency. First, check nutrition labels on packaged foods for sodium content per serving, rather than assuming something is low-sodium because it doesn’t taste salty. You’d be surprised where sodium is lurking in the grocery store. Packaged foods and restaurant food can easily put you over the American Heart Association’s recommended daily limit of 2300 mg per day (about 1 teaspoon). Accurately count how many servings you are consuming (as defined by the nutrition label). Some foods base their data on very small portions to make their sodium content appear low.
Second, track your sodium consumption as part of your daily routine. Make small, consistent changes to eat less processed food or at least start by buying brands with less sodium. Aim to replace most processed foods with fresh foods. Over time, you should feel a difference if you stick with a plan. If you’re new to reading food labels, it can seem a little time consuming at first. Without doing so, however, there’s really no way to know what’s in your food. Fortunately, this practice gets easier over time as it becomes a habit; soon enough you’ll know which foods to limit or avoid.
There’s no denying that fresh produce and whole grains provide vital nutrients that support your overall health. They also add fiber to your diet and are a great replacement for high-sodium processed foods. The average American’s diet is low in fiber, so almost everyone can benefit from this switch. Again, small consistent changes are best. When you eat high-fiber foods, remember to drink plenty of water. Eating fiber and staying hydrated will help you avoid constipation, a contributing factor for varicose veins.
Many high fiber foods – such as leafy greens, soy, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains – also contain nutrients that support good circulation. Vitamin E can help prevent blood platelets from sticking to each other or to vein walls, and good sources of this nutrient include spinach, almonds, sunflower seeds, winter squashes and avocados. Produce high in Vitamin C – such as bell peppers, kiwi fruit, papaya, berries, guava and citrus fruits – can strengthen your blood vessel walls and fight inflammation. Fatty acids help maintain elasticity in your veins, so look for opportunities to add oily fish such as salmon, sardines and tuna to your diet.
While these suggestions about nutrition for healthy veins focus on individual ingredients and nutrients that are important for vein health, following them doesn’t have be complicated. You should 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 sometimes these practices can be useful when first 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.”
A number of factors beyond dietary habits can contribute to venous problems: genetic predisposition, age, jobs that require prolonged periods of standing, excess weight and lack of exercise. The suggestions about nutrition for healthy veins outlined in this article can be implemented at any time for a positive impact. However, if you are already suffering from venous insufficiency – characterized by pain, heaviness, fatigue and swelling in the legs (with or without varicose veins) – then it’s important to know that these nutritional changes won’t on their own reverse this condition. If you are experiencing these symptoms, come in to Artemis Colorado – Vein & Cosmetic Center for a consultation, or call us and we’ll discuss what’s ailing you. Our experienced medical team uses state-of-the-art procedures to diagnose and treat venous disease to get you back on the path toward optimal health.