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STEVE WOLFE/SEEDS OF WELLNESS: Vascular health is vital

by on May 28, 2013 10:59 AM

As our thoughts turn to summer, I believe it would be appropriate to think about some of the health factors that we think more about once the weather gets nice. Specifically, I’m talking about vascular health.

While a healthy vascular system is obviously important no matter the season, it becomes more apparent to us as we start wearing shorts and the varicose or spider veins are visible. In many cases, varicose/spider veins are only a cosmetic problem; however, they can often be leading indicators of something much more serious.

Arteries and veins are our highways for blood flow. Arteries supply blood to other parts of the body from the heart, while veins bring the blood back from the extremities to the heart. In certain cases, varicose veins can actually be an indication of Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD). That’s when the arteries harden due to a buildup of fats and cholesterol in the artery walls which can restrict blood flow and usually causes pain in the legs and feet. Varicose veins are bulged or enlarged veins that occur mostly in the legs and feet as well because of the increased pressure in the veins of the lower body.

Approximately 40 million Americans are affected by varicose veins and most consider them just the price tag for getting older. More women are affected than men, and they are particularly common in people over 50. There isn’t one set cause for varicose veins, but everything from pregnancy, obesity, prior blood clots, genetics and good old gravity can be factors.

It is important to ask yourself a few questions about your varicose veins before deciding whether or not you need treatment. Do you have leg soreness or fatigue? Do your ankles or feet swell? Do you have ulcers or sores on your legs? Do you have large rope-like bulging veins? Or small web-like bursts of veins close to the skin surface?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it might be time to seek treatment. Oftentimes a simple cosmetic procedure is all that is required. In more extreme cases, your vascular surgeon will be able to guide you through the process. Don’t let something simple become something significant. Take care of your vascular health and enjoy the summer weather — you are worth it.

Indiana Regional Medical Center will be offering a free vein screening on June 13. Feel free to call (724) 357-8147 for more information.

Steve Wolfe, the President and CEO of Indiana Regional Medical Center, writes the periodic Seeds of Wellness column in The Indiana Gazette. His columns appear Tuesdays on the Health Page in the paper and in the Community News on The Indiana Gazette Online.
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