It’s a fact; women face unique leg health problems. Leg vein problems are much more common in women, even though there is no distinction between men and women from an arterial and orthopedic perspective. Let’s discuss some of the reasons.
Pregnancy puts pressure on legs.
The most notable reason is pregnancy. There is a 50% increase in total body water—most of it in the legs, causing dilation of leg veins and leg swelling. The excess fluid is eventually lost post-delivery, and the veins shrink, but they don’t go back to their initial size. With each pregnancy, they grow more substantial, and if you inherited a “weakness” of the vein wall or your job involves lengthy standing and/or sitting, there is a continuous stretch. Additionally, when you become pregnant, your uterus compresses the pelvic veins, creating resistance to blood flow from the legs.
For the same reasons, women are at an increased risk of DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) while pregnant, and the risk continues for several weeks post-delivery.
Health Tip: Try to keep weight gain to approximately 20-30 pounds, wear compression garments, take every opportunity to elevate the legs, and lie on the left side when resting or sleeping. Get in a swimming pool to relieve some of the pressure on your legs.
Oral Contraceptives increase your risk for blood clots.
Oral contraception and hormone replacement, especially with high estrogen content, predisposes women to venous thrombosis (DVT). Birth control with the lowest possible estrogen content is advisable, especially if there is a personal or family history of clots. For overweight women, birth control pills should be avoided entirely. Similarly, a woman with cancer should avoid birth control pills and hormone replacement or consult her oncologist.
Obesity restricts the flow of blood from your legs.
Obesity increases the chances of varicose veins and DVT because of increased abdominal pressure. Extra weight increases resistance to the outflow of blood from the legs to the heart—increasing the diameter of leg veins and the chances of back leakage and pooling of blood in the lower limbs.
Tight fitting undergarments women use for a slimmer appearance, such as Spanx, increase resistance to flow, causing veins to distend. When outflow is restricted, women may experience swelling or become vulnerable to DVT, especially when traveling in a confined space.
Health Tip: Try to lose one pound a week, wear compression stockings and stay active. Walking is recommended, but the weight of walking may wear down the knees. If you are obese or have knee problems, try swimming or water aerobics.
Jobs that increase your risk.
Since women make up much of the workforce—especially in jobs that require long periods of sitting or standing like beauticians, chefs, waitresses, teachers, and nurses —their chance of developing vein problems increases. Women who sit for a living aren’t immune either. The pressure at the groin and the knees decrease return of blood and expand veins. Obesity exacerbates this and so do constricting garments. All of these factors increase the chances of developing leaky valves in the veins and also increase the chances of DVT.
Health Tip: If you have a job with prolonged standing and even prolonged sitting, wear compression socks, elevate your legs when possible, and avoid heels and constricting garments.
The Basics of Women Leg Health
Compression stockings are the single best way to control swelling and leg symptoms. The best stockings for the job have 20-30mm Hg graduated compression, but if you don’t have a history of swelling, compression socks with 15-20mmHg are sufficient for some. The lesser grade leggings are great for social settings and short trips.
Give your legs an extra boost by elevating and flexing your knees. Do not cross your legs while sitting. Point your toes and flex to work your calf pump.
Smart is in Fashion
Only wear high heels socially, not at work, while traveling, or when there will be extended standing. Avoid tight-fitting clothes like spanks and corsets when sitting for a lengthy period of time.
Daily Exercise — Activate your calf pump and prompt venous flow with daily exercise. Swimming is excellent due to its antigravity.
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