nature nurtureThere are many contributing factors that may increase your risk for varicose veins. At the end of the day the reality is, if your parents had varicose veins, you too are likely to develop them at some point in your life. Below we break down some of the risk factors contributing to varicose veins, specifically looking at those you can change and those you cannot.

In the general “nature” of things, there are risk factors you simply cannot change that may contribute to the development of varicose veins. The most common risk factors are heredity, age and gender.

Family History: If you have direct family members who have suffered from the painful symptoms of varicose veins, there’s a good chance you will too. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) suggest half of all people who have varicose veins have a family history of them.

Age: The risk of developing venous disease increases with age. This is a direct result of the natural wear and tear on the vein valves and is unavoidable. Over time, the aging process of veins will cause valves to weaken and be less efficient, leading to pooling of blood and hindering the return of blood back to the heart.

Gender: Women are more likely to develop varicose veins than men. This is due to a number of reasons. Hormonal changes during pregnancy, weight gain during pregnancy, use of birth control pills, puberty, and menopause can impact the vein walls and sometimes lead to the development of varicose or spider veins. Female hormones have a tendency to relax vein walls, while weight gain during pregnancy can cause undue pressure on the veins -all of which can hinder proper circulation.

Before you fret, know there are some things you can do to lessen your risk of developing vein disease or delay the onset. Now let’s focus on some of the contributing factors you can actually do something about, the “nurture” side of things! There is no sure fire way to completely eliminate your threat of varicose veins, but there are steps you can take to lessen your risk. Listed below are samplings of risk factors you can “nurture” and reduce or delay the onset of varicose veins.

Obesity: Simply put, when you are overweight, your veins experience increased pressure making it difficult for blood to flow properly. Working to maintain a healthy BMI can help reduce your risk, while developing muscles especially within the legs, can also help to promote good blood flow.

Standing or Sitting for long periods of time: If you have a job that requires you to stand or sit for long periods of time, keep in mind this is a huge contributing factor to vein disease as it causes the veins to work harder to pump blood back to your heart. Try to alter your position when possible and take frequent breaks to sit if you are standing or take a brisk walk if you are forced to sit. If needed, compression stockings can be worn to help in these situations and it is always helpful to elevate your feet for a while at the end of the workday. It is also helpful to practice good posture when sitting or standing including avoiding crossing your legs.

There are many possible causes of varicose veins, some of which you can control and some of which you cannot. If varicose veins run in your family, it is important to talk with your primary care physician during a regular check up about how to continue to reduce your risk. As with any medical condition, be mindful of your risk factors and know the symptoms should you begin to show signs of onset.

If you have a family history of vein disease and have symptoms such as painful or swollen legs, give Premier Vein Clinics a call and schedule a consult with one of our board certified vascular surgeons(865) 588-8229 or visit us online at

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