About one in three adults in the United States has varicose veins, or distorted leg veins that swell, twist, and bulge against the surface of the skin. While anyone can get these rope-like varicosities, certain risk factors, circumstances, and lifestyle choices make their appearance more likely. 

Read on as our seasoned team of vascular experts at Somerset Surgical Associates, LLC discusses the factors that increase your risk of developing varicose veins, and offers simple strategies to help you mitigate that risk and foster optimal vein health.

Are you at risk for varicose veins?

While anyone can get varicose veins, certain risk factors make them more likely. How? By setting the stage for dysfunctional vein valves. When the one-way valves in your veins don’t work normally, blood pools behind them and exerts pressure on the surrounding vessel wall, causing it to swell, bulge, twist, and contort — or become varicose.

Factors that increase your risk of developing varicose veins include:

  • Older age 
  • Taller height
  • Family history
  • Female gender
  • Being overweight
  • Multiple pregnancies
  • Tobacco use (smoking)
  • Leading a sedentary lifestyle
  • Sitting or standing for long stretches 

The more varicose vein risk factors you have, the more likely you are to get them. For some people, varicose veins are little more than a cosmetic concern. But for many others, they’re a constant cause of leg pain, heaviness, itching, swelling, and other bothersome symptoms.

Varicose vein prevention strategies

While you can’t do much to offset unmodifiable varicose veins risk factors like family history, older age, female gender, and taller height, there’s a lot you can do to improve your circulation and minimize your chances of developing vein problems. 

To reduce your varicose vein risk, support vascular health, and foster optimal lower extremity circulation, we recommend that you:

1. Avoid prolonged sitting and standing

Whether your job forces you to sit in a chair all day or you’re just not very active, a sedentary lifestyle can make the valves in your veins less active, too. And when vein valves spend less time practicing their pumping action, they become weaker and less functional. 

Standing still for prolonged periods has the same effect of slowing vein valve pumping action, but with a twist: When you’re standing, your veins must also work harder against gravity to keep blood flowing toward your heart. Support your veins by regularly alternating between sitting, standing, stretching, and movement.

2. Keep yourself physically active

Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your body, mind, and long-term health: It makes you fitter, alleviates stress, strengthens your heart, and gives your circulation a boost. 

You don’t have to hit the gym or come up with a complicated workout routine, either — simply aim to get 30 to 60 minutes of moderately intense exercise each day. A brisk daily walk can go a long way in improving lower extremity circulation and protecting against varicose veins.

3. Reach and maintain a healthy weight

When your body is storing a substantial amount of fat, your circulatory system must work harder to supply the extra tissues with oxygen and nutrients. Being overweight or obese doesn’t just strain your heart, it overburdens your entire vascular system — including your leg veins. 

While sustaining a healthy weight offers the best protection against varicose vein formation, you don’t have to reach your target weight to benefit: Every pound you lose eases the burden on your blood vessels and helps lower your varicose vein risk. 

4. Elevate your legs when you’re seated

If you have several varicose vein risk factors, taking extra precautions — like elevating your legs as often as you can when you’re seated — can be helpful in mitigating your overall risk. 

Putting your feet up when you’re relaxing gives your leg veins a gravity assist that helps reduce pressure on their hardworking valves. It may not sound like much, but it can be beneficial if your job keeps you on your feet all day; especially if you’re an older woman or you’re pregnant.

5. Take precautions during pregnancy

Increased blood volume, blood-vessel-relaxing pregnancy hormones, and large vein pressure are the main reasons that pregnant women — particularly in the third trimester — are more vulnerable to varicose vein formation.

You can mitigate this risk by adhering to our previous recommendations (avoiding prolonged sitting or standing, staying physically active, elevating your feet when you rest) and taking the extra precaution of wearing maternity hose or compression garments, especially if you have a personal or family history of varicose veins. 

6. Try wearing compression stockings

Specially designed to assist your veins with the upward movement of blood from your lower extremities to your heart, compression stockings support efficient circulation, prevent leg swelling, and help protect against varicose veins. 

Compression stockings are especially beneficial if you have many varicose vein risk factors, such as family history, older age, female gender, taller height, and multiple pregnancies. 

Minimize your varicose vein risk today

To learn more about varicose vein prevention or find out which varicose vein treatment options are available at Somerset Surgical Associates, LLC in Somerville, New Jersey, call or click online to schedule a visit today.


We accept most insurance providers. If you have specific questions regarding your coverage, please contact us for additional information.

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