STOPPING THIS HABIT AT OFFICE IS GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH
Sitting for long periods of time at work is one of several factors that can increase your risk of varicose veins and spider veins. Researchers are increasingly concerned that the presence of varicose veins may be associated with an increased risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), Peripheral Artery Design (PAD) or Pulmonary Embolism (PE). Reduce your risk by following our wellness guidelines for increasing your exercise and activity levels during the work day for a healthier new you.
Should you be concerned about the presence of varicose veins or spider veins in your legs?
Varicose veins are noticeably enlarged veins with a twisted, bulging appearance and a distinguishable color, usually red or blue (but sometimes flesh-colored as well). Their smaller cousin, spider veins, are closer to the surface of the skin and typically look like spider webs or tree branches.
Age is a major contributing risk factor. It’s estimated that more than 50% of those aged 50 or older are showing signs of varicose or spider veins.
Our veins, which return blood to the heart, tend to lose effectiveness as we age. The little valves inside the veins can degrade, allowing blood to reverse course and leak back into the veins to collect there, creating the characteristic visible color and bulging of varicose veins. Spider veins, on the other hand, are due to blood not flowing properly; as blood gets blocked from moving, these veins become highly visible.
ARE VARICOSE VEINS AND SPIDER VEINS A SIGN OF HEALTH PROBLEMS?
The relationship between varicose veins and spider veins and major health problems is not completely clear.
However, a very recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at the historical medical records of 425,000 patients in Taiwan. The study found that there was a high correlation between those patients who had varicose veins and those who experienced deep vein thrombosis (DVT). A similar, but the less significant relationship was found between varicose veins and pulmonary embolism (PE), and peripheral artery disease (PAD).
Given the potential seriousness of these cardiovascular problems, you should see a doctor about your varicose veins if you encounter any of the following issues:
- A varicose vein begins to bleed.
- A varicose vein becomes swollen and warm to the touch.
- The color of the varicose vein changes to red.
- You experience rashes, color changes, or thickening near the ankles.
HOW CAN YOU PREVENT CARDIOVASCULAR PROBLEMS, SUCH AS VARICOSE VEINS?
As we mentioned before, age is a contributing factor for cardiovascular problems, such as varicose veins. Genetics can also play a role. We can’t stop the aging process or change our genes (at least not yet). But we can address some of the other contributing factors.
- Minimize Sun Exposure: if you’re fair skinned, use sunscreen or avoid the sun to prevent spider veins, especially on the face.
- Pregnancy and Hormonal Changes: Pregnant women sometimes experience temporary varicose veins during their pregnancy. Women on HRT may experience an increased incidence of varicose or spider veins.
- Control Your Weight: Maintaining a healthy weight can decrease the pressure on your veins.
- Eat a Low Sodium, High Fiber Diet: Reducing salt can reduce swelling while high-fiber foods help reduce constipation, both of which are associated with varicose veins.
- Avoid Sedentary Lifestyle at Work or at Home: Avoid standing or sitting for long periods of time. Using a Formaspace Sit-to-Stand desk can make this easy to accomplish during the day. Be sure to get up and walk at least every 30 minutes. Avoid crossing legs for extended periods of time, which can restrict blood flow. Choose low shoes over wearing high-heels to increase the movement of blood through calf muscles.
START AN EXERCISE PROGRAM TO IMPROVE YOUR CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH
Whether you are younger or older, in good health, or are experiencing an ongoing health issue or disability, regular exercise and physical activity will help improve your long-term cardiovascular health.
Daily exercise and physical activity can also reduce the risk of developing serious health problems, such as heart disease and diabetes.
Even If you do have a chronic health condition, such as arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, balance problems or difficulty walking, you can benefit from a personalized exercise program tailored to your needs.
STEPS TO TAKE BEFORE STARTING AN EXERCISE PROGRAM
If you have not been physically active for some time, you should schedule a physical and a consultation with your physician prior to beginning an exercise program to identify any special concerns or risks.
Having a physical can help identify any undetected health issues, which may arise during vigorous exercise as well as establish a current health baseline for evaluating your overall health progress.
Depending on your personal health history, a consultation may include any or all of the following:
- Identification of specific exercise goals that are appropriate for your present physical condition
- Recommendations concerning any of your personal health concerns (such as high blood pressure or medications you are currently taking)
- Ways for diabetics to manage their blood sugar when exercising
- Advice on exercise during periods of rehabilitation or recovery from surgery or other major health events (such as a heart attack)
- Safety tips to prevent re-occurrence of past injuries
- Evaluation of bone density, especially for women over 65 who are at special risk for osteoporosis
- Review of when to call 911 emergency services if you experience any unexplained symptoms during vigorous exercise (e.g., chest pain or pressure, pain in your joints, dizziness, or excessive shortness of breath)
DEVELOPING YOUR OWN PERSONAL EXERCISE PROGRAM
For many individuals, the start of a successful exercise program begins with a diary that logs your current physical activities. Knowing your current habits will make it easier to set new, achievable goals — for today, tomorrow, this week, this year and next year.
You can also confer with your physician who can help you identify exercise goals that are appropriate for your current health and physical activity levels.
Generally speaking, a well-rounded, personal exercise program will include four main categories: flexibility, endurance, strength, and balance.
FOUR COMPONENTS OF A BALANCED EXERCISE PROGRAM
1. IMPROVING YOUR FLEXIBILITY
Stretching or flexibility exercises are an important part of your physical activity program.
Spend about 5 minutes at the beginning of your exercise program to warm up. If you are walking or running, start slowly for the first 5 minutes. If you are swimming, first perform exercises to warm up your arms, shoulders, and legs.
During the middle of your exercise, do some stretching exercises 3–5 times. Slowly stretch into the desired position, as far as possible without pain, and hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds. Relax, breathe, then repeat, trying to stretch farther.
- A mild, uncomfortable, “pulling” sensation when stretching is OK. However, if you feel a sharp or stabbing pain, or pain in your joints (either right away or even the next day), you are stretching too much.
- Avoid “bouncing” or jerking into position when stretching; this can cause muscles to tighten, possibly leading to an injury. Use slow, steady movements instead.
- Avoid “locking” your joints into a fully straight position; keep your joints slightly bent while stretching.
At the end of your routine, you should cool down with slower exercises to gradually return your muscles to rest.
2. BUILDING UP ENDURANCE
If you are new to participating in an exercise program, try to build up to at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each day of the week. The exact amount of time recommended will depend on your current level of physical conditioning.
What does sustained ‘moderate-intensity’ mean in practice? A rule of thumb is you should be able to talk during moderate-intensity activity. It will be difficult to talk during vigorous activity.
Brisk walking (4 miles per hour) is a good example of moderate-intensity activity. (Remember to drink fluids even if you don’t sweat.)
At this rate, you should be able to work up to walking three miles in a little over 45 minutes, which is a good goal for a lunchtime exercise break.
Over time, you will be able to increase the intensity or duration, or both.
3. INCREASING YOUR STRENGTH
Weight-bearing exercise (also known as strength training) is recommended for everyone. Women age 65 and older and/or those diagnosed with osteoporosis will especially benefit from lifting weights.
Try to do a 30-minute strength training session of your major muscle groups at least 2 or more days a week. (Avoid training the same major muscle group two days in a row — it’s best to mix up your routines to give them at least a one day of rest before repeating).
Depending on your physical condition, you may start out with 1 or 2-pound weights (or no weight at all). If you can’t lift or push a weight 8 times in a row, it’s too heavy for you and can cause injury. Reduce the amount of weight immediately.
- Take 3 seconds to lift or push a weight into place, hold it in position for 1 second, and take another 3 seconds to return to your starting position. Don’t let the weight drop; returning it slowly is very important.
- Try to do 10 to 15 repetitions of each exercise. Think of this as a goal. If you can’t do that many at first, do as many as you can. You may be able to build up to this goal over time.
Over time, you will want to add more weight to challenge your muscles to get the most benefit from strength exercises.
4. MAINTAINING YOUR BALANCE
Each year, more than 2 million older Americans have fall-related injuries that require a visit to the emergency room.
Balance exercises can help prevent harmful falls, which can lead to serious fractures (including arm, hand, ankle or hip fractures) or even long-term disability.
What are balance exercises?