Varicose veins are enlarged, bulging veins. According to the Mayo Clinic, in addition to the bulge, symptoms may include pain, night cramps, itchiness and feelings of heaviness. Varicose veins can occur anywhere in the body, but usually develop in the legs. They are fairly common and according to the John Hopkins Bayview Vein Center, occur more often in women than in men. Although certain risk factors such as family history are not controllable, there are steps to take to help prevent varicose veins.
Stay at a healthy weight. Being overweight is one of the risk factors for developing varicose veins. The extra weight adds pressure to the legs and veins and can increase the chances of the veins enlarging. If you are overweight, talk to your doctor about starting a weight loss program. Limit fried foods and foods high in fat and sugar. Eat whole grains, lean meats and fresh fruits and vegetables.
Avoid standing in one spot for an extended amount of time. Blood is more likely to pool in the veins if you stand in one spot. If you have an occupation where you stand for extended periods of time, take breaks as often as possible to walk around or sit and stretch your legs. When you are standing, avoid shifting all your weight to one leg.
Sit with your legs and ankles uncrossed. Sitting with the legs crossed may contribute to the blood pooling in the legs. It can also increase the pressure inside the veins in the legs, which can cause bulging and varicose veins.
Elevate your legs. This may help blood circulate and prevent pooling. This is especially important if you have risk factors such as pregnancy and an occupation where you are on your feet all day. Place a few pillows underneath your feet or the back of your knees in order to keep your feet about 6 inches higher than your heart. If possible, elevate your feet for 10 minutes, three or four times a day.
Exercise regularly. Cardiovascular exercise helps improve circulation. Better circulation means less likelihood of pooling blood in the veins. If you are new to exercise, start slowly and build up to at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise about 5 days a week. Cardiovascular exercise includes activities that increase your heart and respiratory rate, such as running, biking, aerobic dance and brisk walking.
Wear support stockings. If you are at risk for varicose veins and have a job that requires standing for long periods of time, wearing support hose may help prevent varicose veins. Support hose apply a little pressure to the legs and may prevent veins from enlarging. Look for support hose with a graduated level of pressure as they go higher up the leg.