Cold weather can bring about many conditions, such as allergies, dry skin, and the common cold. If you have varicose veins, did you know the drop in mercury can make the condition worse? Learn the link between cold weather and varicose veins. The two are connected more than one may think.
Cold Weather and Varicose Veins: The Connection
The effects of cold weather on varicose veins are both direct and indirect.
The Direct Cause
First, let’s explore the direct cause. Low temperatures cause the muscles and blood vessels to constrict. In turn, this causes the blood to more rapidly return to the heart. This natural response is known as vasoconstriction, and it helps to keep the body warm. Consequently, this also leads to a modest increase in blood pressure and heart rate. This exerts greater pressure on your veins, potentially making existing varicose veins to become more pronounced in appearance.
The Indirect Cause
People tend to be less physically active during cold weather. They’re less inclined to head out in the cold to get exercise. They’re also less motivated since their bodies are hidden underneath heavier layers of clothing. That extra sweater is hiding the love handles and expanded waistline.
Why is this relevant? Exercise gets your blood circulating and is one of the best ways to minimize varicose veins. The lack of physical activity during frigid weather leads to less-than-optimal blood circulation, allowing for varicose veins to form.
In addition, the decrease in physical movement leads to weight gain. The excess weight places undue stress on the one-way valves in the veins, causing blood to accumulate in the lower extremities.
Read also: Varicose Veins – Where do they come from & How to get rid of them!
How to Minimize Varicose Veins During Cold Weather
Many of these tips for reducing varicose veins apply year-round but may especially be helpful during the cold season.
Avoid Long Periods of Sitting
People tend to cozy up on their favorite couch in the winter. Sitting leads to the muscles squeezing the veins. Your legs are also bent or crossed, causing the blood to not circulate as well. If you sit, stand up to stretch and shake out your legs every 30 minutes.
Stay Physically Active
Remember, physical exercise promotes blood circulation. Healthy blood flow is key in minimizing the veiny appearance. Aim for exercises that target the muscles where the veins are the most pronounced. For varicose veins in the lower extremities, good exercise choices include:
- Bodyweight squats
- Calf raises
- Ankle rotations
- Mountain climbers
Wear Compression Stockings
Compression stockings have the added benefit of keeping your feet warm in cold weather. They’re also great for reducing varicose veins. The stockings place consistent pressure or squeeze around the ankle and feet, in turn promoting greater blood flow to the heart.
In one study, patients that wore compression stockings for one week reported less pain associated with varicose veins, compared to subjects that wore normal stockings. At our office, we offer JOBST® Compression Stockings to our patients to help improve blood flow while keeping the legs fresh and cool. Contact us to learn more about JOBST Stockings!
Reduce Caffeine Intake
A warm mug of coffee or tea is a great way to combat the cold. However, it’s best to keep caffeinated beverages to a minimum, or aim for decaffeinated varieties. Caffeine intake temporarily increases blood pressure by constricting the blood vessels. This makes it harder for the blood to travel freely. Over time, this may lead to varicose vein development. Explore other ways to stay alert, such as getting more sunlight, taking short power naps, and stretching often.
Read also: Best and Worst Foods to Consume if You Have Varicose Veins
Seek Varicose Veins Treatment for a Long-Lasting Solution
Cold weather may cause bodily changes. For some, the effects include more pronounced spider veins. The above self-care methods may reduce symptoms to varying degrees. For a long-term solution, however, consider varicose veins treatments, such as sclerotherapy. This consists of noninvasive injections to gradually minimize the unsightly veiny appearance. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with our top local cardiologist, Dr. Corwin A. Thomas!