When we think about our veins, how our jobs affect them probably doesn’t cross our minds. Americans spend about one-third of their lives at work, however, and our workplace habits and behaviors follow us home long after we punch out for the day. The amount of time we spend sitting or standing, what we ate for lunch and how we respond to stress all play a role in the health of our veins. In fact, more than 30 million men and women in the U.S. suffer from vein problems that may stem from a sedentary lifestyle or desk job that makes them more prone to developing these issues.
How can this be? Well, our veins are pretty complex. There is a lot going on to make sure blood circulates throughout the body properly. Oxygen-rich blood is carried from the heart by the arteries and delivered to your organs, tissues and cells. When that blood is depleted, it’s picked up by capillaries and travels through the venous system back to the heart. Unlike arteries, leg veins have to work against gravity to do their job and are equipped with tiny, internal valves that control the flow of blood. This ensures that it only goes in one direction — back to the heart. Sometimes these valves can become weakened or damaged, making it difficult for blood to get where it needs to go. If they don’t function properly, blood can flow backward and begin to pool, causing numerous issues for affected veins.
Certain occupations can negatively affect your vein health by making it harder for your veins to circulate blood back to the heart. We’ll explore why jobs that require long periods of sitting or standing, cause a high amount of chronic stress, or encourage a poor diet have the biggest impact on your vein health and what you can do to combat these effects.
Sitting or Standing Too Much
There is a long-established connection between sitting or standing too much and venous issues. This is because it’s hard work for your veins to fight against gravity. When we’re immobile for long periods of time, it becomes even harder for your veins to move blood upward and back to the heart. Blood begins to pool in the legs, pressure within the veins increases, and the walls and valves are weakened and damaged over time. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to improve blood flow and minimize your risk of developing venous issues:
- Wear compression socks to improve circulation
- Do leg exercises, such as calf raises, toe touches and squats
- Shift positions and alternate between sitting and standing
- Take short walks throughout the day
- Prevent restricting blood flow with comfortable, loose-fitting clothing
- Prop your feet up to help your blood flow back to the heart
Movement is one of the simplest things you can do to improve your vein health. Blood flow in the veins gets help in combating the effects of gravity from muscle pumps, which push blood upward with each contraction. Walking, running and other movements activate this mechanism for healthy circulation. There are some exercises, such as weight lifting and high-impact workouts, that may be counterproductive because they increase pressure within your veins, so it’s best to talk to your doctor before beginning a fitness routine to find out what’s safe for you.
An Unhealthy Diet
It might be wise to skip the cafeteria line and pack your own lunch to bring to work. We all know eating a balanced diet is ideal for our health and wellness, but poor eating habits aren’t only bad for the waistline. High blood pressure, fluid retention and weight gain are some diet-related factors that can contribute to venous issues. Sodium-rich foods can increase blood pressure and stress your veins, while sugary and fatty foods can contribute to weight gain. Obesity is one of the biggest risk factors for vascular disease and unhealthy veins, as carrying around extra weight strains your circulatory system and can worsen any existing symptoms you may have. Over-processed foods should also be avoided, as they often contain little fiber, lots of sodium and ingredients that can cause inflammation. Nixing these unhealthy foods from your diet can positively impact your vein health and overall wellness.
Making healthier food choices can not only improve and maintain your vein health but also lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and high blood pressure. Certain foods can help your arteries and veins stay strong and elastic, while others may alleviate existing symptoms. Fruits and vegetables top the list for vein-healthy foods, as they supply an abundance of antioxidants and bioflavonoids. Bioflavonoids are found in most fruits and vegetables and are known for their ability to reduce inflammation and may strengthen the walls of the veins. Bioflavonoids can also be found in tea, chocolate, dried beans and seeds. Foods rich in fiber are important for your veins as well, helping to improve digestion, alleviate constipation and maintain a healthy weight. Finally, drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated will help your blood flow more easily through your veins and lower your risk of blood clots and venous insufficiency.
Stress and Cortisol
If your job is stressing you out, it may impact your health more than you think. Stress can manifest in many different ways — headaches, trouble concentrating, insomnia and fatigue are all common effects. When you’re feeling stressed, you’re also less likely to take good care of your body and eat healthy, exercise or get a good night’s sleep. When we experience these effects long-term, they can impact the health of your veins and vascular system.
Many of these effects can be traced back to cortisol, the stress hormone. When you’re stressed, cortisol tells your body that you need more fuel and makes us crave “comfort foods,” those high in sugar and carbohydrates. Cortisol also activates a “flight or fight” response that increases your blood pressure and restricts blood flow throughout the body. Although these functions were useful in the dangerous, life-threatening situations our ancestors had to endure, in modern society, they may do more harm than good. Chronic stress has been linked to weight gain, poor circulation, heart disease, digestive issues and high cholesterol. Some people who are stressed are more likely to smoke, drink and otherwise deal with it in unhealthy ways.
Together, all of these effects combine to increase your risk factors for venous issues and exacerbate any existing conditions. Learning how to manage your stress in healthy ways can alleviate many of these symptoms and help keep your veins in good shape. Although everyone has different stress-management techniques, some common methods include:
- Fitness and workout routines to lower stress levels
- Meditation, yoga and breathing exercises
- Make time for hobbies and other fun activities
- Spend time with family and friends
- Improve time management and organizational skills
The Vein Care Center of Florida for Your Vein Care Needs
So your job is wreaking havoc on your veins — now what? The Vein Care Center of Florida & South Baldwin can help you improve your vein health and treat any existing conditions you may have. Dr. James Jimenez is a renowned expert in the field of vein care and provides minimally invasive in office options to eliminate spider veins or varicose veins and alleviate the uncomfortable symptoms of venous insufficiency. The Vein Care Center of Florida & South Baldwin provides free vein screenings for patients in Pensacola or Destin, or Alabama patients in Foley, and can help find the right treatment for you. If you’re ready to learn more about improving your vein health, contact or call us today at 1-800-910-VEIN to schedule a consultation or set up a free vein screening!