Like many men, you might think that varicose veins are a women’s health issue or only affect older people. If so, you’d be wrong! Around 10-20% of men develop varicose veins at some point in their lives, and that number is rising due to increased longevity and obesity.
Young men are also developing varicose veins, which aren’t just a cause of potential embarrassment over appearance. These bulging veins can be itchy and painful, and may lead to problematic bleeding, ulceration of the skin, and a heavy feeling in the legs that hampers normal activities and enjoyment of life, and can cause a raft of other symptoms.
Fortunately, there are a number of things men can do to minimize the risk of varicose veins, including following these 7 top tips for vein health:
- Exercise – staying active helps to keep blood flowing and stop it pooling in the veins of the legs, where it can cause veins to bulge. Exercise also helps with weight management and supports strong vein walls. If you work standing up, make a point of swaying from side to side to keep your leg muscles active. Men who spend more than 6 hours a day on their feet have a three-fold increase in the risk of developing varicose veins.
- Elevate your legs and keep moving – to avoid blood pooling in your legs while sitting at a desk or lounging on the couch, it is smart to raise your legs above heart height for 15 minutes twice a day, or engage in some foot-tapping or general fidgeting so as to keep those leg muscles active and keep the blood flowing. Some people even put a pillow at the end of the bed so they can keep their feet raised while they sleep.
- Compression hose – you might not think they’re particularly becoming, but knee-length compression stockings can significantly reduce the likelihood that you develop varicose veins. These stockings, which often just look like long socks, help to push the blood up from the ankle so as to avoid pooling. As a preventive measure, compression hose with a pressure measurement of 10 to 30 millimeters of mercury should suffice. If you already have varicose veins, ask your doctor for advice.
- Eat well – a diet that is rich in antioxidants and fibre from plant foods, and low in salt, saturated fat (mainly found in animal products), and simple sugars is your best strategy for keeping varicose veins at bay. Skipping processed foods can help to cut your intake of sugar and salt, which lead to inflammation and water retention, both of which increase the likelihood of varicose veins.
- Stay hydrated – a good intake of fluids from food and drinks helps to keep your whole body healthy, reducing the risk of constipation (and, therefore, hemorrhoids), and supporting healthy blood pressure and blood flow.
- Watch your weight – rapid weight gain can put a huge amount of pressure on your veins (ask anyone who is pregnant!), so if you want to avoid varicose veins be sure to address any sudden weight gain by reassessing your diet and exercise regimens and by seeing a doctor if there’s no clear reason for such weight gain.
- Relax! – Seriously. Making time for a little R & R can make a big difference to your blood pressure and overall cardiovascular health. In turn, this reduces the likelihood of inflammation and blood pressure-related varicose vein development.
While these preventive strategies can help, it’s important to note that some risk factors cannot be modified, such as genetics and simple old age. Others can be difficult to change, such as unavoidable workplace stressors like heavy lifting. Men whose jobs frequently involve heavy lifting have almost four times the risk of developing varicose veins, so if your job is increasing your risk, it’s a good idea to find ways to reduce your risk in other areas.
It’s never too late to start taking control of your health, but if you have concerns about existing varicose veins it is a good idea to talk to a qualified vascular surgeon who will be able to address more serious causes of chronic venous insufficiency. In some cases, varicose veins may indicate systemic vascular problems that could increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Many men choose to undergo treatment for their varicose veins to enhance their appearance, to address symptoms such as itching and pain, or for both reasons. Advances in medical science now allow many treatments to be performed in an outpatient capacity, offering a safe and effective way to address varicose veins in men with little to no downtime required.