Venous disease describes a number of conditions that affect the veins in your body. This includes spider and varicose veins, venous insufficiency and blood clots. Several risk factors increase your chance of developing one of these conditions. Learn the top seven risk factors for venous disease and what you can do to improve your vein health.
Risk factors for venous disease
Risk factors increase your chance of developing a disease. The most common risk factors for vein disease include:
- Age. As you get older, your veins become less elastic. This allows more blood to collect, or pool, in the veins, which causes them to swell or bulge. This is why varicose veins are more common in older adults.
- Family history. If your parent, grandparent or sibling has vein disease you are more likely to develop a similar condition.
- Sitting or standing still. When your leg muscles contract, they help push the blood in your veins toward the heart. If you spend much of your day sitting or lying still—such as in a car, on the train or bus, or in front of the television or computer—blood will tend to pool in your veins. Standing still can have the same effect. When you stand, your blood also has a harder time flowing to the heart because gravity pushes it toward the feet. Sitting or standing still for a long time can make varicose veins worse and increase your chance of getting a blot clot in a vein in the leg.
- Weight and obesity. Being overweight or obese can put more pressure on your veins, making it harder for blood to flow out of the legs.
- Gender. Women are more likely than men to have vein disease sometime during their life. Doctors think this is due to the effect of female hormones such as progesterone on the walls of the veins.
- Pregnancy. Many women develop spider and varicose veins during pregnancy. These may go away after giving birth, but can stay for much longer. This is especially true for women who have had multiple pregnancies.
- Leg injury. An injury or surgery that damages the valves in the veins in your leg can make it harder for the veins to move blood toward the heart. This can lead to varicose veins and other vein problems.
Crossing your legs will not cause varicose veins, but in some people it may make the symptoms worse. This may have more to do with sitting still for too long than the actual crossing of the legs.
Wearing high heels may also bother your varicose veins. This is because your calf muscles don't flex as much compared to when you walk in flat shoes. The squeezing of the veins by the calf muscles helps to push the blood from the legs toward the heart.
How to prevent venous disease
While you can’t change who your parents are or your age, you can take other steps to reduce your risk of developing venous disease, such as:
- Don’t sit or stand still for long periods. Movement helps the veins push the blood in your legs toward the heart. Break up long periods of sitting or standing by going for a walk or doing some gentle exercises that involve the legs.
- Raise your legs. If you stand or walk for a long time, raise your legs above the level of your heart whenever you can, such as 15 minutes three times a day.
- Exercise regularly. Get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity, such as walking, bicycling or tennis.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet. If you have difficulty losing weight, a structured weight-loss program can help you lose and keep the weight off.
- Avoid wearing tight clothing. Tight clothes around the waist, groin and legs can make some vein conditions, such as varicose veins, worse.
- Wear compression stockings. Compression stockings apply pressure to the veins of the legs, which helps move the blood from the legs toward the heart. Compression stockings may relieve the symptoms of some vein conditions, such as varicose veins and venous insufficiency.