By Samuel P. Martin, MD, FACS, Founder & Medical Director at Vascular Vein Centers
With all the travel, shopping and cooking of the holidays, it’s easy to forget about the extra physical stress you’ll be under. You can expect to spend many extra hours on your feet, and it’s your legs that will take the brunt of this extra standing.
Gravity’s long-term strain on our bodies is the main reason vein disease develops, and the holiday marathon doesn’t help. Veins are responsible for returning blood back to the heart, but our blood’s uphill path against gravity makes this tough, particularly during long periods of standing.
Many factors contribute to gravity’s pressure on your legs, stretch veins and cause them to become varicose and malfunction:
- Occupational risks
- Prolonged standing or sitting
- Hormonal factors
Here are 10 tips to keep your legs healthy, especially through the busy holiday season.
1. Maintain a healthy diet and stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water and eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Studies show that bioflavonoids may help strengthen vein walls. Avoid salt, as it can predispose you to swelling.
2. Exercise: Exercise helps the calf pump blood back to your heart, especially if it includes walking, running or biking.
3. Get in a pool: Exercise or walk in the water, particularly late in the day. This relieves venous congestion and swelling.
4. Wear compression stockings: Compression stockings can relieve symptoms of venous disease and prevent varicose and spider veins or keep them from progressing. Medical-grade compression stockings reduce swelling and increase blood flow.
5. Elevate your legs: Keep your legs elevated whenever possible to aid blood flow.
6. Sit Properly: Put as little pressure as possible on the under part of your thigh and avoid crossing your legs for long periods of time.
7. Wear the right shoes: Low-heeled shoes promote the calf pump. Heels can inhibit your calf pump from working, so reserve wearing heels for those special occasions.
8. Keep your skin well lubricated: Moisturize your legs, especially in the lower calf and ankle area. Don’t forget the sunscreen!
9. Stay active: In addition to wearing compression, stand or walk around the plane cabin every hour. Calf exercises also help circulation. Stretch when possible.
10. Wear loose-fitting clothing: Tight pants and Spanks limit the blood flow through your groin area.
Travel often disrupts your exercise routine and forces you to stay in confined spaces like cars or airplanes. During flights, restricted movement, lower oxygen pressure and dehydration cause blood to pool in your legs, increasing your chances of developing Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) or blood clots. While traveling may expose certain risks, a little forethought can prevent a complication.
Remember to think about yourself this holiday season. Your continued health is one of the best gifts you could give your family this year. Healthy Legs = Healthy Life