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What Are Varicose Veins (Spider Veins)? Can I Get Rid of Them?

One day you wake up and they’ve shown up out of nowhere.

 

Spider veins.

 

You know the ones: The cluster of purple veins that gather in your legs, sometimes bulging out beneath the skin.

 

Maybe your mom told you growing up that you should avoid crossing your legs to keep spider veins at bay—but this is a myth. (This may help relieve varicose vein symptoms, however.) (1)

 

That said, spider veins don’t really appear out of nowhere. There are plenty of factors that cause them. Sometimes those factors are things beyond your control—but sometimes simple shifts in your routine can change everything.

 

So, can you stop spider veins in their tracks?

What Are Varicose Veins?

First things first: What even are spider veins?

 

Their official name is varicose veins, and they can also be called varicoses or varicosities. They happen when your veins become enlarged or filled with too much blood. Most varicose veins of a certain stage look swollen and create a raised “ridge” rising out from the leg. Most are also a noticeable color, like purple, blue, or red.

Varicose veins on the back of a leg.

If this sounds like you, you’re not the only one: Nearly 24% of adults have spider veins (2).

 

So how do they happen? To put it simply, spider veins occur when your veins aren’t functioning like they’re supposed to (3).

 

Our veins have valves that keep your blood flowing as it should—toward the heart. And these valves prevent gravity from pulling your blood into the opposite direction, where it might otherwise pool in the legs which are farthest from your heart. But as we get older, those valves age along with the rest of us, and may not work as efficiently (4).

Are Varicose Veins Dangerous?

In some cases, varicose veins can be a risk factor for a type of blood clot called deep venous thrombosis, also called DVT (5). For most people, however, varicose veins are not dangerous.

 

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t uncomfortable. Varicose veins can hurt. Yours may be accompanied by burning, swelling, cramping, aches, or a feeling of heaviness in your legs that can be exacerbated by long periods of sitting or standing.

 

And of course, most of us aren’t too fond of how our spider veins look either. As common as varicose veins are (they are no reason to feel bad about yourself!) it’s still not particularly fun to have large bulges and discoloration on your legs.

What Causes Varicose Veins?

There are two sets of risk factors for varicose veins: Those you can control and those that you can’t.

 

Unfortunately, some of the major risk factors include your sex, family history, and age. People over age 50 are at a higher risk for developing spider veins, and menopause also increases your risk factor (6).

 

The good news, though, is that there are certain lifestyle factors that ramp up your risk—and those are things we can change!

Sedentary Lifestyle

The more you sit for prolonged periods of time, the higher your risk factor for varicose veins. When you sit for too long, it can cause blood to pool in the veins in your legs—the very thing we want to avoid. Break up long stretches of sitting still with daily walks, leg day at the gym, or even leg lifts and stretches from the couch (7)!

Standing for Too Long

On the other side of the coin, standing for too long can also pose a risk. This is especially an issue for people whose jobs require them to stand in a mostly stationary spot for several hours each shift (8). The blood in your legs simply doesn’t flow as well when you’re still, whether you’re standing or sitting.

 

To help mitigate this, take short walk breaks every 45 minutes. If you can’t take breaks while standing, try doing squats in place, leg lifts, or simple stretches—anything to get that blood flowing.

Obesity

If you’re carrying extra weight, there may be extra pressure on your veins that can increase your risk factor (9). Since switching up your diet and moving more are solutions to many other spider vein risk factors, you may find yourself losing weight from habit change alone without even realizing it.

What You Eat

There are many healthy ingredients that can help curb your risk of spider veins, including fiber and rutin, but our personal favorite is omega-3 fatty acids (10, 11).

 

Why?

 

Because this powerful ingredient does so much more in addition to potentially reducing your risk of spider veins.

 

Omega-3 fatty acids can help improve your circulation, which can in turn help prevent clotting and varicose veins (12). But that’s just the beginning: Omega-3s have also been associated with lower blood pressure, lower triglyceride levels, and a reduced risk of heart attack and stroke (13).

 

If you want to help prevent varicose veins, try working some of the below foods into your diet so you’re getting at least 250 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per day (14)…

 

Krill Oil

Krill oil is a powerful extract that comes from the Antarctic Ocean. Among many other health benefits, including lower cholesterol and better brain health, krill oil is loaded with the omega-3 fatty acids your body needs to ward off spider veins (15).

 

The added bonus: The omega-3s that krill oil offers is more bioavailable than what’s found in other ingredients like fish oil—meaning your body will absorb it more easily and efficiently (16). While krill is eaten in some parts of the world, the simplest way to load up on its nutrients is with a supplement, and NativePath Antarctic Krill Oil makes this easy to do.

Fatty Fish (like Mackerel and Salmon)

Delicious fish like salmon and mackerel are packed with omega-3, and at least two servings a week are recommended (17).

 

Flaxseed

The ground format of these tiny seeds can be blended into smoothies, oatmeal, and many other types of meals without any taste. In addition to omega-3s, they’re packed with ingredients that can help keep your cholesterol healthy along with boosting other health factors (18, 19).

 

Chia Seeds

Load up on chia pudding (or pack other meals with chia seeds!) for a hefty dose of omega-3 that your veins will love, as well as a satisfying feeling of fullness that will tide you over for hours (20).

 

Walnuts

Walnuts are associated with reduced blood pressure, lower inflammation, and—key when fighting varicose veins—improved blood vessel function (21). Of course, they’re also delicious! Load up on them whenever you can, because your veins and your taste buds will thank you.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, there are aspects of our health that we can’t control, but there are also aspects that we can control. And that includes some of the habits and dietary factors that can help reduce the odds of developing varicose veins.

 

Moving more and eating healthier ingredients packed with omega-3s can make a difference. You’ll lower your likelihood of spider veins while improving your health in other ways along the way.

As a writer, editor, and wellness seeker, Claire has written for Self, Health, Prevention, CNN, Mic, Livestrong, and Greatist, just to name a few. When she's not writing, she specializes in traveling, getting lost in health-related research rabbit holes, and finding new ways to spoil her cat.

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Medical Disclaimer
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.

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