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Issue 65: An Uphill Battle

Your arteries have the responsibility of carrying blood from your heart to the rest of your bodily tissues. Your veins’ job is to return the blood back to your heart so that it can be recirculated in the body.The difficulty with this, however, is that it is literally an uphill battle because the veins in your legs have to work against gravity to return the blood back to the heart.

Here's how it works: The muscles in your lower legs contract and pump the blood upward, while your elastic vein walls help the blood get to your heart. Your veins have tiny valves which, amazingly, open as blood flows toward your heart, and then they close so that the blood will not flow backward.

That is, of course, when everything goes as it should.

When it doesn’t, your vein health status and circulation ability may feel it. The truth is that some factors put people more at risk for poor circulation and unhealthy veins than others, including:

Age. Women aged 30 to 70 (and men to a lesser extent) are most likely to take a hit, although the risk increases as a person ages. Aging veins have gone through a lot of wear and tear, and the valves in the veins that regulate blood flow just don’t work like they used to. Instead of pushing the blood flow back up to the heart, the tiny venous valves allow blood to flow back into the veins. Blood then pools in the legs, causing the veins to enlarge and become distorted. Their blue color is due to deoxygenated blood, which is in the process of being recirculated. 

Pregnancy. Bringing a child into the world is a joyous time, but your veins may not respond well to the added pressure. Pregnancy increases the volume of blood in the body while decreasing the flow of blood from your legs to the growing baby. This may be further exacerbated as the expanding uterus and baby weight puts even greater pressure on the veins in your legs. Hormonal changes may play a role in developing varicose veins while pregnant, too. The good news is that veins pummeled during pregnancy will most likely improve within three months after the baby is delivered.

Family history. If a family member has had circulation issues, then you might have a genetic predisposition as well.

Being female: Women are much more likely to develop poor circulation than men are because of the hormones accompanying the menstrual cycle and pregnancy. Menopause may also add to the likelihood of its development. Furthermore, female hormones tend to relax vein walls. Hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills may further increase the risk for developing unhealthy veins.

Weight and mobility. Being overweight puts added pressure on the veins and, therefore, increases a person’s risk for developing unhealthy circulation. Likewise, those who must stand for long periods of time and have limited mobility do not have optimal blood flow. This creates an environment ripe for vein unhealth.

There are some steps you can take, however, to support vein health and better circulation. We’ll take a look at those in the coming weeks.


This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

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