Hot flushes, changes in mood and night sweats are just some of the well known unpleasant symptoms associated with the onset of menopause. There are also many other lesser known or common symptoms during this stage of life, including varicose veins.
Varicose veins can affect both men and women, however, women are more highly at risk as a result of fluctuations in hormones.
There are many hormonal changes which evolve during menopause, one of these being the natural decline of the production of oestrogen and progesterone by the ovaries. There are also increased levels of two hormones of the pituitary gland – luteinizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone - that usually stimulate estrogen production by the ovaries in the pre-menopausal years. Other tissues in a menopausal woman’s body continue to produce estrogen, and the adrenal glands make some progesterone, but the overall levels of the two hormones become much lower during and after menopause. This brings on the familiar symptoms of hot flashes, loss of bone density and otherwise unexplained episodes of fatigue or depression.
Less well known is the fact that estrogen and progesterone have positive effects on all of the circulatory system, not just the heart. It is these hormonal fluctuations which can result in the relaxation of your vein walls and may eventually lead to varicose veins. When your vein walls relax, there is less force moving your blood back to your heart from your extremities, and if your blood starts to pool downwards, this can lead to backpressure that can cause varicose veins.
Further to this, your metabolism slows down during menopause, weight gain easier. This excess weight is said to be closely associated with an enhanced risk of vein disease as it places additional pressure on veins.
Prevention is always better than cure, it is important to understand how varicose veins develop and how they can be prevented during menopause. It is essential for all women be aware of their cardiovascular health when reaching menopausal age in order prevent or even avoid varicose veins and any other potential complications arising from other circulatory related conditions.
What can be done to reduce the risk of varicose veins during menopause?
Though, there is no guaranteed way of preventing this disease, lifestyle changes are usually the first treatment for varicose veins. These include:
- Possibly the most powerful preventative is regular exercise for the legs – walking, running, biking and swimming all stimulate circulation in the legs. Good circulation is key to preventing the pooling of blood in veins that causes them to become varicose.
- Avoiding sitting or standing for prolonged periods. When sitting, avoid sitting cross legged. Likewise, where possible keep legs raised when sitting, resting, or sleeping.
- Try to lose excess weight by sticking to a regular exercise routine. This will assist in improving blood flow, and ease the pressure off veins aiding blood flow out of the legs and back to the heart. Getting your legs moving will improve muscle tone, therefore helping the movement of blood through the veins.
- When possible avoid high heels, wear lower heeled shoes as this can help tone the calf muscles. However, if you really have to wear high heels, avoid wearing them for long periods of standing.
While menopause can increase your risk for developing varicose veins, this doesn’t mean you are fated to have them. Just follow the tips to help you prevent or treat your varicose veins.