These Things Increase Your Risk for Varicose Veins

Almost 35% of Americans have varicose veins, according to the Society of Vascular Surgery. If you’re one of the 35%, you might experience anything from achiness to skin discoloration to itchy skin. 

Dr. Henock Saint-Jacques of Harlem Cardiology understands the complexities of varicose veins — and that they aren’t just a cosmetic issue. As an experienced cardiologist, Dr. Saint-Jacques can both diagnose and treat varicose veins.

Perhaps, you’ve seen a family member deal with varicose veins and wonder what you can do to prevent varicose veins in yourself. In this article, we’ll cover the six factors that increase your risk of developing varicose veins and what you can do if you already have them.

Six risk factors for varicose veins

While it’s true that anyone can develop varicose veins, it’s important to know what your personal risk factors are. This gives you the advantage to make preventive lifestyle changes if you’re at risk. 

Here are the top six risk factors for varicose veins:

1. Age

Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to avoid this risk factor. The natural aging process can cause wear and tear on the valves in your veins. Without properly working valves, your blood flow might back up and pool — causing those bulging, lumpy veins. 

2. Gender

Women are more likely to develop varicose veins and spider veins. According to the US Department of Health & Human Services, women are twice as likely to suffer from varicose veins when compared to men. This disparity has much to do with hormonal fluctuations that women experience, but we’ll cover this in depth in the next section.

3. Hormonal fluctuations

Women are more likely to experience varicose veins thanks to hormonal fluctuations. This includes pregnancy and menopause. Specifically, the surges of hormones can relax the vein walls, leading to reflux (backward flow) of blood. 

In addition to the influx of hormones during pregnancy, it’s important to note that a woman’s blood volume also increases during pregnancy.This is necessary to support and nourish a growing baby, but it also causes the veins to expand and widen too. Varicose veins are a common side effect of pregnancy that can impact up to 40% of expectant mothers.

Pregnancy and menopause aren’t the only hormonal shifts that affect vascular health. Hormonal therapies or medications (hormone replacements or birth control pills) can also affect your veins.


Being overweight or obese can increase your risk of developing several conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and varicose veins. Being overweight doesn’t just increase your risk of getting varicose veins; it can increase the likelihood that you’ll have more severe varicose veins. According to research published in the European Journal of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery, overweight patients had more pressure on their veins, wider veins, and greater reflux (when the blood flows the wrong way when the valve doesn’t work right).

5. Family history

Although you can’t avoid your family history, this information can be very enlightening. It can encourage you to take proactive steps like exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight.

6. Lifestyle habits

Your lifestyle habits can also influence your vein health. Sedentary lifestyles are known for contributing to health problems likeType 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. Inactive lifestyles also contribute to varicose veins.

Surprisingly, sitting too long isn’t the only problem. Standing for long periods of time isn’t good for your veins either. Sitting or standing in one spot for hours makes it hard for your blood to flow as efficiently. For best results, include movement in your day. If you sit at a desk, take regular breaks to stand, stretch, and walk around your office. If you stand all day, take breaks to sit and stretch.

At the end of the day, you can elevate your feet too.

What if you already have varicose veins?

Some risk factors are within your control, but some (like family history) aren’t within your control. Even if you try your best to avoid varicose veins, it’s possible that you still see the telltale twisted veins. Left untreated, varicose veins can feel achy or heavy and cause discomfort. 

Thankfully, there are several treatment options for treating varicose veins. Here at Harlem Cardiology, our treatment options include laser therapy, radiofrequency ablation, endoscopic vein surgery, sclerotherapy, ambulatory phlebectomy, and high ligation and vein stripping. 

If you spot the signs of varicose veins and want to explore your treatment options, call our East Harlem, New York, practice at 646-381-2181. Alternatively, head over to our website and request an appointment today.

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