Unsightly and uncomfortable, nobody wants to develop varicose veins. But keeping your blood flowing freely can help reduce your risk.
If your mother had varicose veins, it’s highly likely that – along with the family silver – you’ll inherit them too.
But making some lifestyle changes, including upping your intake of B vitamins, could help prevent them developing.
What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins are lumpy or bulging, blue-ish or dark purple veins on the legs or feet.
They can make your legs feel heavy and achy, cause a burning or throbbing sensation, cramps, and sometimes make the skin around them feel itchy.1
What causes them?
When the small valves inside your veins stop working properly, the blood can’t flow properly around your body, so it collects in the veins. They’re more common amongst women thanks to female hormones, and your risk increases with age, as veins lose their elasticity.
Other factors2 may also make varicose veins more likely:
- family history
- being overweight
- standing a lot for work
- pregnancy, although they often improve within three months of giving birth
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B vitamins and varicose veins
To help protect against varicose veins, you need to keep your blood flowing freely. Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2010, which was actually looking into heart disease, found that taking vitamin B12 lowers homocysteine levels.3
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There is a link between high levels of homocysteine, a type of amino acid, and hardened arteries, and damaged arteries won’t encourage good blood flow. Upping your vitamin B12 could therefore lower your homocysteine levels. B12 contributes to normal homocysteine metabolism.
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A 2011 study by the National Taiwan University College of Medicine compared vegetarian and meat-eating postmenopausal women. Despite the fact that the vegetarians had lower cholesterol levels, the trial showed both groups had stiff arteries.4 The scientists suggest that this may be due to low vitamin B12 levels in the vegetarians.
Where to find B vitamins
You can top up your B vitamins by eating lots of whole, unprocessed foods like brown rice and wholegrain bread, fish and meat like liver and salmon, and plant-based foods including potatoes, broccoli, peanuts and lentils.
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.
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1. NHS Choices. Varicose veins. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/varicose-veins/causes/
2. Circulation Foundation. Veins. Available from: https://www.circulationfoundation.org.uk/help-advice/veins
3. Armitage JM, et al. Effects of homocysteine-lowering with folic acid plus vitamin B12 vs placebo on mortality and major morbidity in myocardial infarction survivors: a randomized trial. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20571015
4. Su TC, et al. Arterial function of carotid and brachial arteries in postmenopausal vegetarians. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3166191/