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Women's Leg Health Tips

By Dr. Samuel P. Martin, MD, FACS

Women face unique leg health problems even though there is no significant distinction between men and women from an arterial and orthopedic perspective. Vein problems are much more common in women, and the reasons are clear. However, there are several leg health tips women can use to ensure healthy veins and legs.

Pregnancy Puts Pressure on the Veins in Your Legs.

The most significant reason for poor leg health is pregnancy. During pregnancy, there is a 50% increase in total body water. Most of this occurs in the legs causing dilation of leg veins and leg swelling. The excess fluid is eventually lost post-delivery, and the veins shrink, but they usually don't go back to their original size. With each pregnancy, veins can grow larger, and if a woman inherited a "weakness" of the wall or your job consists of prolonged standing or sitting, the veins can continue to stretch.  During pregnancy, especially in the last trimester, the uterus compresses the pelvic veins, creating resistance to blood flow from the legs.

For these reasons, as well as an increase in clotting factors, women are at an increased risk of DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) while pregnant, and the risk continues for several weeks post-delivery.

VVC Leg Health Tip: Try to keep weight gain to approximately 20-30 pounds, wear compression, take every opportunity to elevate the legs, and lie on the left side when resting or sleeping. Get in a swimming pool to relieve some of the pressure on your legs.

Oral Contraceptives Increase Your Risk for Blood Clots

An excellent leg health tip for women is to avoid oral contraceptives if possible. Oral contraception and hormonal replacement, especially with high estrogen content, predisposes women to venous thrombosis (DVT). Birth control with the lowest possible estrogen content is advisable, especially if there is a personal or family history of clots. For overweight women, Birth control pills should be avoided entirely. Women with cancer should avoid birth control pills and hormone replacement or consult their oncologist.

Obesity Restricts the Flow of Blood From Your Legs

Another helpful leg health tip to ensure healthy legs is to limit weight gain. Obesity increases the chances of varicose veins and DVT because of increased abdominal pressure. This increases resistance in the outflow of blood from the legs to the heart. In turn, this increases the diameter of leg veins and the chances of back leakage and pooling of blood in the lower legs.

Often, women try to camouflage weight gain using tight-fitting undergarments such as girdles or Spanx. These increase resistance to flow, causing veins to distend. When outflow is restricted, women may experience swelling or become vulnerable to DVT, especially when traveling in a confined space for long periods and for those who are significantly overweight.

VVC Leg Health Tip: Try to lose one pound a week on a sustainable diet. Wear compression and stay active. Walking is recommended, but the weight of walking may wear down the knees. If you are obese or have knee problems, try swimming or water aerobics.

Occupations Play a Role In Women’s Leg Health

A practical yet straightforward leg health tip for women is to keep moving. Whether her job requires sitting or standing for long periods, it is imperative that she keep that blood flowing by moving around. Occupations such as beauticians, chefs, waitresses, teachers, and nurses have an increased chance of developing leg vein problems. Women whose jobs entail a lot of sitting are not immune to leg health issues. Pressure on the groin and the knee areas decreases the return of blood and distends veins. Obesity and constricting garments exacerbate the problem. These factors increase the chances of developing leaky valves in the veins and also increase the chances of DVT.

VVC Leg Health Tip: If you have a job with prolonged standing and even prolonged sitting, wear compression socks, elevate your legs when possible, stay well hydrated and avoid heels and constricting garments.

The ABCs of Ladies’ Leg Health

Ensuring good leg health can be an overwhelming task in today's busy world. Here are some excellent leg health tips to keep your veins nice and healthy.

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