Relax! Stress makes varicose veins worse

The mind is a funny thing. It’s a well known fact that chronic stress can impact our physical health, but did you know it can also affect your veins? Keeping your stress levels under control and finding ways to calm your mind will not only help you live your best life, but it could also help you manage your symptoms caused by varicose veins. 

Chronic stress can impact your immune, digestive, cardiovascular, sleep, and reproductive systems, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Have you ever experienced a stomach ache when you’re nervous, or a bad night’s sleep during a difficult life event? 

Physical manifestations of stress can show up in any number of unexpected ways, and if your stress lasts for a sustained amount of time, it can cause long term effects. Heart disease, diabetes, mental disorders like depression and anxiety, and even high blood pressure can be caused by chronic stress. 

Stress doesn’t directly contribute to chronic venous insufficiency (the root cause of varicose veins). It can, however, affect things that are tied to the health of your veins. For example, stress impacts your blood pressure. 

Prolonged stress can cause your blood pressure to rise, which puts pressure on the walls of your veins. If your veins are already inflamed, this can cause the valves to continue to struggle to pump blood, causing them to become even more swollen and painful. 

Stress, weight, and varicose veins

Varicose veins typically occur on the legs and ankles when small, one-way valves fail to keep blood moving in one direction towards the heart. When these valves begin to fail, gravity pulls the blood backward into the veins. Over time, the stagnant blood engorges the vein which results in the bulging, ropy appearance of varicose veins.  

While varicose veins are primarily a genetic condition, being overweight is a leading factor in getting varicose veins. There is a powerful connection between stress and weight gain. That’s because eating healthy and exercising regularly aren’t always a top priority for people experiencing chronic stress. 

When cortisol, the stress hormone, doesn’t drop down, but is instead high for a prolonged period, it increases blood sugar so that we have more energy to deal with stressful situations. That causes us to become hungry, and a need to eat more. Stress eating — or emotional eating — is a very real thing. 

Even worse, when we’re under a lot of stress, we tend to eat foods that are comforting, but not necessarily good for our bodies. But that’s not the only connection between stress and weight gain. 

According to a report published by Cell Metabolism, chronic stress can increase the rate that fat cells are formed. Stress literally makes us fatter. Being overweight puts extra pressure on your veins. If your veins are already damaged, they’ll weaken even further from extra weight. 

This pressure caused by weight gain finds a natural outlet by squeezing blood backward down varicose veins past failed one-way valves in our veins. The backward flow raises the pressure in the veins and stretches the vein wall so that a previously normal vein becomes varicose, or enlarged. 

How to manage stress when you have varicose veins

Consistent stress is normal. We all experience ups and downs — bad days at work, difficult family situations, terrible traffic, challenging interactions with people. Stress is a part of life and unavoidable. But chronic stress isn’t sustainable. 

Find a way to destress regularly. Learn to recognize when your stress levels are rising and when it’s time to take care of yourself. Some warning signs that you’re maxed out include anxiety, irritability and muscle tensions. 

Some suggestions to reduce stress include:

  • Exercise regularly, even if it’s just a 30-minute daily walk
  • Explore meditation or breathing exercises
  • Set goals and priorities, and learn your personal limits 
  • Stay connected with loved ones
  • Research healthy problem-solving and coping skills for when times get tough
  • Get enough sleep (a lack of sleep can also contribute to weight gain and stress, among other health issues)

At East Tennessee Vein Clinic, we want you to feel and look your best. While stress management can help manage the symptoms of your varicose veins, only treatment can get rid of them. 

Schedule a consultation with Dr. Brittany Cook to see what treatment is best for you.  You will most likely need a combination of our treatments in order to tackle every element of your varicose veins.

Ready to get lasting relief from your varicose veins? Schedule a consultation today! Call us at 1-866-281-VEIN or visit our website. If you’re not sure treatment is right for you, take our assessment here.

“I just want to thank everyone on staff at East TN. Vein Clinic for making me feel so welcome when I came there. You all are so very nice and sweet to everyone.”

- S. H., Cumberland Gap, TN