Varicose vein development and the pain that sometimes comes with varicose veins can be impacted by several factors. If the climate in your region restricts your ability to move in the wintertime, you may struggle to get enough exercise to reduce the development of new varicose veins. However, blood vessel constriction caused by exposure to cold can encourage better blood flow.
Changes in Activity
Winter can make it very hard to get exercise unless your exercise routine is built around indoor activities. Because moving your legs is critical to maintaining the best blood flow possible, you will need to find an indoor activity that will provide you with leg movement that
- involves your entire leg, and
- is gentle to your joints
Jarring activities such as running on a hard surface can actually increase vein swelling and pain, while cycling will engage the muscles throughout your legs, increase effective circulation and reduce the symptoms of varicose veins.
If you’re hoping to build muscle tone, work with a trainer to help you build a weight-lifting program that doesn’t put a great deal of pressure on your lower body. Avoid the bad habit of grunting or holding your breath as you lift. A qualified trainer can help you build good habits so you can move forward on your fitness goals and protect your veins. No matter what, keep moving!
Additionally, the darkness and cold weather may lead to spending more time on the couch, cuddled up under a throw. When possible, tie your leisure activities to some form of movement. For example, if you’re listening to music or an audio-book, get on your feet and clean or take a quick walk.
Changes in Diet
Winter is a nice time to cook; standing over the stove can not only warm you up but result in a delicious meal or treat. However, your winter diet may include foods with a higher fat and sodium content.
When planning meals, make sure to leave space on the plate for the colour and fiber of fresh vegetables and fruits. Rather than having crisps or crackers for a snack, grab an apple or handful of cherry tomatoes. Bulking up on carbs is easy to do on cold days, and eating cold foods may seem counter intuitive when it’s cold outside. However, your circulatory system will thank you!
Having a nice glass of wine or a cocktail with dinner is tempting, and if you spend a portion of your day cooking you will likely feel you deserve it! However, alcohol can inhibit your decision making abilities and you will likely tend to overeat once you have had a drink. Determine your portions before you pour the wine to avoid overloading your plate.
Changes in Wardrobe
Cold weather encourages layering up. Take care when combining slacks with tights to avoid wearing anything too constrictive. While supportive stockings can improve your blood flow, most leg-wear will be constrictive at the knee (in the case of socks or stockings) or at the waist (tights.)
Invest in leggings, tights and socks that offer a gentle fit. If you sit all day and notice your socks digging in under the knee, roll them down while you’re at your desk so they don’t limit blood flow or encourage pooling. Consider investing in compression socks in a variety of colours so you can support your veins and look great at the same time.
If you’re wearing hiking boots or anything else that laces up during cold and possibly snowy weather, take care not to over tighten the laces or leave them tightened once you’re indoors. Any constriction points can cause blood to pool and put unnecessary pressure on your veins, so monitor the condition of your lower extremities during the day to reduce pressure points.
Changes in Temperature
Hot weather can cause veins to dilate and increase varicose vein problems. Cold weather actually shrinks veins. However, if you’re snuggled in your warm cosy house, you won’t reap the benefits.
It’s critical to keep moving no matter the temperature. If you hate to exercise in the cold, incorporate movement in your daily chores. When parking, choose a spot far from the front door so you can have a little walk before you collect the mail or pick up your groceries. Walk your dog, or volunteer to walk the neighbour’s dog to keep your mind off the cold while you move your body.
First Things First
When you wake up, do some gentle stretches to loosen up your legs. While waiting for coffee to brew, stand on your toes for five to ten seconds, then return to the floor. Put one foot behind the other and lean forward to stretch the back calf. There are always options for moving that will improve the health of your veins and improve blood flow.
At The End Of The Day
Put your feet up. When possible, elevate your legs to encourage pooled blood to flow back up towards your heart. Also, check the condition of your skin at the end of the day and apply moisturiser after your bath to keep the skin over your varicose veins healthy and supple. This will also apply gentle massage to your muscles, again, encouraging blood flow.
Many animals hibernate in winter, and it can be tempting to snuggle in at home and stay there. However, if the pain of varicose veins limit your ability to move and enjoy life, then you’ll need to push yourself to get out and about no matter how cold it is.
Bundle up, but avoid constriction points at your ankles and knees. Move your body gently through space, or at least get on a stationary bike to get blood moving, rather than pooling, in your legs. Avoid loading up on foods high in fat and salt. Limit your alcohol intake, and no matter what, don’t smoke!
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