It’s that time of the year. The leaves, after turning beautiful shades of red, yellow, and orange, are falling to the ground and the temperature is dropping. We are starting to grab for pumpkin spice lattes and all the comforts of fall–wool sweaters, leggings, and cozy Ugg boots. As the temperature chills outside, you may be wondering how the cold weather affects varicose veins. Does cold weather make varicose veins worse or does it make them better? The answer is varicose veins are mostly worse in cold weather, but there are things you can do to beat the cold and mitigate the effects.
How Cold Weather Affects Varicose Veins – The Good News
Good news first. If you have significant inflammation in your veins, exposure to cold can calm it. Decreased inflammation allows the valves inside the veins to function more efficiently and correctly. When the valves are working more efficiently, the blood flows better and pressure inside the veins is lower. The result of this can be improved circulation, less cramping, and less swelling in the lower legs and feet.
Some reduction in these symptoms can be a welcome result of spending time outside in the cold. Unfortunately, most people don’t spend large amounts of time outside when it’s cold so this effect will be significant. Also, some other negative effects from the cold can sometimes offset the positive effects of reduced inflammation.
How Cold Weather Affects Varicose Veins – The Bad News
This is the bad news. Winter mostly means veins struggle more and symptoms can worsen. The two main factors inducing aggravated varicose veins in the winter are lower amounts of physical activity levels and weight gain. These two tend to go together. A third factor is just the cold temperatures in the air, which cause your heart and circulatory system to work harder to maintain a healthy body temperature.
People are generally more sedentary during the winter and engage in less physical activity. We know that one key to keeping veins healthy is regular movement and exercise, so it stands to reason that this slowdown in movement has a negative effect on varicose veins. Veins have a much harder job when the muscles aren’t being used.
At the same time that we curl up by the fire and become more sedentary, we also tend to eat more comfort foods and, especially during the holiday season, sugary treats and drinks These two factors add up to a tendency to add weight during the cold months. With varicose veins, extra body weight adds more strain to struggling valves inside the veins and often causes an increase in vein symptoms like pain, swelling, and heaviness.
The freezing temperatures can put a strain on the cardiovascular system as it struggles to maintain a healthy body temperature. We can imagine our hearts having to work harder to pump thicker blood through constricted blood vessels with resultant higher blood pressure. People with existing heart problems should be extra careful when exerting themselves outdoors in activities like shoveling snow. Any varicose veins can also be exacerbated by this increased pressure inside the veins.
Strategies for Healthier Veins This Winter
- Maintain your healthy diet and weight. Remember to eat for overall health and work on maintaining your healthy weight. Eat the rainbow of fruits and vegetables with lots of healthy fats and protein.
- Get regular exercise. Remember to keep up your normal exercise routine during the cold months, modifying to move it indoors if necessary. Shoot for 30 minutes per day. Try to add in short walks outdoors when it’s not too cold out and light resistance training several times per week.
- Remember good vein care. Put your feet up as often as possible. Wear compression stockings to lessen symptoms. Don’t sit or stand in one position for too long. Seek professional care when vein symptoms get worse or change suddenly.
- Relax and manage stress. Choose a stress management technique that is right for you and practice for 10-20 minutes every day. Our favorites include yoga, meditation, soaking in an Epsom salt bath, deep breathing, and infrared sauna bathing.
If you’re ready to get some professional treatment for your varicose veins, we can help. Reach out to schedule a consultation with one of our providers and learn about the latest non-invasive treatment options for permanent relief.