Good news if you’re trying to break your smoking habit! If you need another reason to keep your new year’s resolution, you can blame your varicose veins on smoking too. Maybe it’s not your genetics, your lack of exercise or your inattention to proper diet. Name smoking as the villain and the rest is easy: stop smoking and see a vein doctor.
A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology was the first to prove what many had suspected. When you cancel out the risk factors related to things like pregnancy, obesity, genetics and lack of exercise, the link to smoking and varicose veins is clear. People who smoke half-a-pack a pack a day or more significantly increase their risk of vein disease.
Nicotine and the other chemicals in cigarettes cause blood vessels to constrict and harden, and blood to thicken to form. One result is increased blood pressure, which itself is a risk factor for varicose veins.
There are plenty of reasons you will get varicose veins even when you are in perfect health. Heredity is the big one: if your mother or grandmother had varicose veins, you probably will, too.
But you can do things to increase your odds with varicose veins. Maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly. If you work at a job that requires lots of standing, like police officer, bartender, teacher or nurse, make sure you take plenty of breaks to sit.
And when you see signs of varicose veins, talk to a doctor about whether you need treatment and what to do until you get it.
In the meantime, quit smoking. It isn’t easy, but your legs (and the rest of your body) will thank you.
Dr. Alex Afshar will talk to you about smoking and other risk factors for varicose veins.