The heart is the primary organ that pumps blood to all parts of the body; but this is not possible without the presence of blood vessels that transport blood to all parts of the body and back to the heart. Arteries carry blood from the heart to all parts of the body, while veins carry the 'used' blood back to the heart for re-oxygenation. These vessels, like the heart, work non-stop throughout the day and throughout life and any problem that impedes the optimum functioning of these vessels definitely leads to a disease condition. Such is the case of varicose veins.
Varicose veins are a common occurrence in the western world, anyone who doesn't suffer the condition, must have, at least seen someone who does. Though varicose veins do not always constitute a problem that requires urgent medical attention, they can be quite unsightly and depressing. Varicose veins often present as twisted and enlarged veins close to the skin, discoloring the part of the skin where they occur and sometimes causing pain and discomfort.
Several factors have been indicted in the cause of varicose veins, such as obesity, hormonal abnormalities, pregnancy, long periods of standing or sitting, genetic or previous venous problems such as thrombophlebitis. However, to prevent varicose veins effectively it is important to understand the underlying reason for the condition.
The first problem is that veins are always superficial and have less effective valves compared to the arteries; this is reasonable since they transport blood back to the heart with far less pressure compared to the arteries. However, this means that veins are more prone to valvular incompetence (i.e. failure of the valves to prevent back flow of blood). Secondly, the veins of the lower extremities have to transport blood back to the heart against the force of gravity. Transporting blood against the force of gravity exerts a greater amount of stress on the veins of the legs than any other part of the body and this is why varicose veins commonly occur in the lower extremities.
Once this fact is understood, it is much easier to understand how to prevent varicose veins. Standing for a long period tends to weaken the veins of the legs while sitting for a long period or sitting with the legs crossed tends to hamper blood flow in the legs. Thus, it is important to avoid standing or sitting for a long period. If you have to sit at work, stand up every hour or so and walk around. And if your work requires you to stand for a long time, try shifting your weight from one leg to the other periodically. It is also good to rest with your legs up, once in a while; it helps take the stress of your legs.
Obesity is regarded as one of the causes of varicose veins because it places much strain on the legs, maintaining average body weight reduces your chances of getting varicose veins. Also, table salt has been shown to increase water retention in the body. This increases the volume of blood the vessels have to transport and also body weight. Reducing salt intake could reduce your chances of suffering varicose veins. Walking is the best form of exercise for the legs; it helps keep the muscles toned and improves blood circulation, thus strengthening the veins against swelling and twisting. Varicose veins are not such a serious medical condition, except when it becomes complicated. If you already have the condition or you are predisposed to it, following these simple measures could greatly relieve the condition and prevent it from getting worse.
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