Sitting for long hours each day has been linked to serious health conditions, including varicose veins.
As we spend more and more hours sitting while we work, drive, and watch TV, our vascular health suffers. A recent report in the Annals of Internal Medicine estimated about half our day is spent doing tasks while seated. Although it’s hard to imagine life without the technology that makes this all possible, those prolonged periods of inactivity have been linked to serious health conditions, which has led health experts to coin the phrase “sitting disease” — and this so-called “disease” could have a major impact on our wellbeing.
Several studies have linked prolonged periods of inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle to serious chronic diseases. In 2018, an American Cancer Society study tied higher rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer to the “sitting disease.” But vein specialists have long known the “sitting disease” plays a role in the development of varicose veins and blood clots. Here’s why sitting is bad for your veins, and how you can keep your veins healthy even if you spend most of your day seated.
The Connection Between the “Sitting Disease” and Varicose Veins
Varicose veins develop because of dysfunctional valves in the leg veins. When working properly, these tiny valves push blood back to the heart after it has circulated to our organs and tissues. But valves in the legs contend with the strongest force of gravity because the legs are so far from the heart. If the valves are weak, blood flows backwards into the vein and causes the vein walls to bulge out, forming varicose veins.
Many factors contribute to weakened vein valves, including age, pregnancy, obesity, and heredity. Yet sitting for long periods has also been associated with varicose veins. When we sit, the muscles in our calves are idle and cannot help veins pump blood upward to the chest. Without that extra support, veins face a tough battle to return blood to the heart. The more time spent seated at a desk or behind the wheel of a car may eventually equal greater risk of varicose veins.
Yet you can offset the negative effects of the “sitting disease” by taking these steps to increase your activity level while at work or at home. Although regular exercise is the best way to improve your vascular health, incorporating these three simple measures into your daily routine could give a big boost to your vein health.
- Stand When You Can. When watching TV or talking on the phone, stand up. This will reduce the time you spend seated. The same holds true for when you take long plane or car rides. Stand up and move around as much as possible to give your veins a chance to circulate blood.
- Switch to a Standing Desk. These ergonomically designed workstations allow you to work at your computer while standing. However, standing for too long hinders circulation in the legs as much as sitting. Therefore, whether standing or seated, step away from your desk frequently to stroll around the office.
- Walk More. Rather than parking close to your destination, park your car a bit farther away so you have to walk a longer distance. Walking is a great way to engage the calf muscles. When you work the calf muscles, you’re also promoting optimal circulation in the legs. Another tip is to walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator.
Taking Care of Your Vascular Health
The Desert Vein Institute specializes in protecting your vein health. Our doctors and staff have countless combined years of experience treating venous disorders such as varicose veins. We offer several treatment options to eliminate the pain and discomfort of varicose veins that are virtually pain-free. Contact us today for a consultation.