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Can I Prevent Varicose Veins?

Can I Prevent Varicose Veins?

Q: Iíve noticed that varicose veins run in my family and am scared that Iíll end up with them as well. What causes this and is there anything I can do to prevent them?

A: Many women ask me this question, including my own grandmother.

Hereís a simple anatomy lesson:

Inside each vein thereís a one-way valve that opens to let blood flow through and then shuts to keep blood from flowing backward. If the valves are weak or damaged, blood can back up and pool in your veins causing the veins to swell. This weakens the walls of the vein. When the walls of the veins are weak, they lose their normal elasticity. This makes the walls of the veins longer and wider and causes the flaps of the valves to separate.

When the valve flaps separate, blood can flow backward through the valves. The back flow of blood fills the veins and stretches the walls even more. As a result, the veins get bigger, swell, and often get twisted as they try to squeeze into their normal space. This is what causes the spidery appearance of the veins on your legs.

You may be at higher risk for weak vein walls due to increasing age or a family history of varicose veins. You also may be at higher risk if you have increased pressure in your veins due to excess weight.

Trying to not spend hours on end standing on your feet without moving around (which allows the blood flow in the legs to slow and pool) may help.† You might also consider wearing pressure support stockings which can help prevent the pooling of blood in the veins.

Dr. Brent Ridge is the health expert for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. You can call and ask him a question live every Tuesday at 2 p.m. Eastern on Sirius Satellite Radio, Channel 112 (1.866.675.6675). You can also follow along as he learns to grow his own food and raise goats on his farm in upstate New York by visiting

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Dr. Brent

As an undergraduate, Dr. Brent Ridge majored in public health and environmental science, studying the way the state of the natural environment impacts our health choices. As a physician, he specializes in the field of aging. Send your health questions to Dr. Brent at


+ add your own
7:48AM PDT on Apr 22, 2013


6:53PM PDT on Apr 19, 2013

good to know

5:09PM PDT on Apr 19, 2013


11:18AM PDT on Apr 19, 2013

pretty basic ideas then...thanks for sharing

7:49AM PDT on Apr 19, 2013


3:19AM PDT on Apr 19, 2013

Thanks for sharing.

9:42AM PDT on Sep 17, 2012

Thank you

6:51PM PDT on Sep 16, 2012

Good to know! I was using the pressure support stockings while I was working.Cause I was standing a lot. Now,when I don't use them any more...well I can see the difference,sorry to say!

3:46PM PDT on Jun 25, 2012

In Hatha Yoga the "Shoulder-Stand" is recommended for relieving pain in varicose veins, amongst other beneficial effects. Practiced regularly on a daily basis, varicose veins can even be reduced. Tilting the bed is definitely also a good idea, although in the research I read, it was recommended that the foot-end is raised. Once you get used to that, there is relief on varicose veins and improved circulation of blood through the brain, with its own benefits.

2:57PM PST on Jan 22, 2011

Interesting. Men can also have vericose veins as well.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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