Early humans began the transition to walking upright about 4-5 million years ago, give or take a few years. In the last century or so, we’ve gone the opposite direction, spending hours sitting in front of computers, sitting for transportation, and hitting the couch in the evenings for a little TV time.
The human body hasn't evolved for this excessive sitting, and it’s wreaking havoc on our health, including our cardiovascular health.
While not exactly life-threatening, prolonged sitting is a major risk factor for varicose veins, which affect up to 35% of the population in the United States. To explain the connection, Dr. Satjit Bhusri and the team here at The Vein Institute at Upper East Side Cardiology take a closer look at how sitting affects your vein health.
Your body needs movement
The human body is designed to move, and movement helps everything function better. We referred to early humans beginning to stand upright, but they didn’t start from a seated position — they transitioned from swinging through trees.
Our gradual shift to a more sedentary existence is new, and our bodies aren’t equipped for this shift. A great example of the result of this shift is to look at the veins in your legs.
Your veins are responsible for bringing deoxygenated blood back to your heart, where it picks up oxygen and begins its round trip journey again. The veins in your legs have the hardest job, as they have to battle distance and gravity to get blood back to your heart. So, these veins rely on two things:
- Muscles in your calves to help push blood upward
- Valves in your veins that shut off as blood passes through
With prolonged sitting, you’re not exercising the muscles in your calves to support your blood vessels. As a result, your blood vessels and the valves within can weaken, allowing blood to pool in your legs. When this happens, superficial veins can engorge and rise to the surface of your skin, which is what’s behind varicose veins.
All of this falls under chronic venous insufficiency, which affects more than 25 million adults in the US.
Combating varicose veins
If you’ve developed varicose veins, the good news is that we can banish these unsightly developments with quick-and-easy vein treatments, including:
Moving forward after your treatment should include exactly that — moving forward. There are some great lifestyle tips for preventing varicose veins from returning, or forming in the first place, including:
- Exercising more
- Building your calf muscles
- Wearing compression stockings
- Elevating your legs
If sitting for prolonged periods is unavoidable, we suggest you set a timer and get up and move around every hour or so to keep the veins in your legs pumping well.
While it’s not always possible to prevent varicose veins, addressing risk factors like prolonged sitting can certainly help.
For more information on the prevention and treatment of varicose veins, please call our New York City office on the Upper East Side at (212) 752-3464 to schedule a consultation.