By Bryan Carter, MPA-C, Phlebology-Surgery
Blood being carried toward the heart is called venous and blood being carried away from the heart is called arterial. Because proper blood circulation aids the body’s flow of nutrients and oxygen to the heart, brain and other organs, it’s imperative to maintain and improve our arterial and venous blood flow as we age.
Maintaining a healthy diet is critical to keeping your lipid levels in good balance, coordinately it will assist in supporting the vascular structures through nutrient and antioxidant-dense foods. The Heart of the Villages cardiology team members recommends a low-fat diet full of healthy fruits and vegetables and lean protein. Staving off Atherosclerosis, or the hardening of the arteries due to plaque build-up can be achieved through medications as well.
One of the most effective, natural ways to achieve healthy circulatory functioning is to exercise. Along with resistance training, any form of cardiovascular activity will improve the blood flow and dispensing of nutrients. The key here is to get your heart rate up because when the heart muscle contracts at a higher rate, there is an increase in blood volume, allowing the blood to move more swiftly through the circulatory system. This will give the veins and arteries an upgrade in performance level.
What are some of the ways that you can incorporate cardiovascular exercise? Well, that answer depends on your level of health, fitness, and overall wellness. If you are someone that likes to take a jog, keep doing that, but maybe try to increase your distance on a gradual level. If you aren’t a person that normally exercises, perhaps turning on your favorite music and dancing in the living room will do the trick. If you go to social clubs, maybe dancing with your spouse, or friends will be enough to get your heart rate up, all while your having fun. There is nothing better for the body and mind, then taking a good walk. Just make certain that the walk is brisk enough to increase your heart beats per minute. As the hot summer approaches, maybe taking a refreshing swim in the pool, or doing some water aerobics would be enjoyable for you. There are so many options to choose from, and thankfully many of them are low-impact to help alleviate injury to your joints and bones. Always remember to speak to your physician before starting any new exercise program.
Various forms of venous issues affect 25 million Americans. Their legs are swollen, achy and they have a heavy sensation. When our veins are working properly, they pump blood back to the heart. Valves in the veins are made to open and close in one direction if these valves or the wall of the veins are damaged, the blood is unable to work against gravity, and the result is a pooling of the blood in our legs. This pooling is called stasis and can present significant risks to our health.
Sometimes venous insufficiency is more of a cosmetic issue and poses little health concerns. This is usually noted in spider veins, which is when the tiny capillaries are damaged, but when the veins are damaged, this can cause varicose veins, which can lead to a much more severe health issues. Neither of these should be taken lightly. A medical professional will be able to report whether or not your symptoms are superficial, or dangerous and in need treatment.
Symptoms of venous insufficiency:
• Leg pain while standing or sitting, which subsides after resting for an extended period of time
• A sensation of tightness & burning may occur in the leg or foot
• Swelling of the calves, which dissipates after elevation
• Dark veins
• Dry, itchy skin
• Ulcer can occur near the ankle and are often painless, but have a dark rim
Arterial insufficiency, or more commonly referred to as Peripheral artery disease (PAD), is a narrowing of the blood vessels that supply blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the legs. This is caused by atherosclerosis. With decreased blood flow, comes insufficient nourishment to the tissues and nerves. This can lead to severe medical conditions. Currently, 8.5 million Americans have PAD.
Symptoms of arterial insufficiency:
• Leg pain and cramping when walking,
usually in the calf
• Pain dissipates quickly after resting
• Loss of hair on legs and feet
• Pale skin
• Dry, itchy legs
• Ulcers can develop on feet and legs; these are usually resistant to healing
Although venous and arterial insufficiency can happen to anyone, the most common factors that put you at risk for vein issues are family history, smoking, being overweight, and a sedentary lifestyle.