How to Prevent Varicose Veins: Tips and Expectations

A woman sitting on a chair and touching her foot.

While you can’t change the genetic factors that predispose you to have varicose veins, there are many actions you can take that can help prevent existing varicose veins from getting worse. To motivate you, the same lifestyle habits that can help prevent varicose veins will improve your health in a variety of other ways. 

What steps can you take to avoid varicose veins and help your circulatory system stay healthy? 

Is It Possible To Prevent Varicose Veins? 

Varicose veins are caused by venous insufficiency, a failure in the valves that help pump blood back to the heart. When blood cannot flow properly, it puts pressure on the veins, causing them to pop, swell, or twist. Varicose veins are not the same as spider veins, although they are often seen together.

Spider veins are damaged capillaries resembling blue, purple, or red “branches.” They can be made worse by the pressure caused by varicose veins. Spider veins are typically more of a cosmetic issue, but varicose veins can be more serious. 

Spider veins

Early signs of varicose veins may include itching, pain, swelling of the veins, restless legs, and a feeling of heaviness. If left untreated, these symptoms can get worse, leading to discomfort, pain, aching, burning, itching, cramping, heaviness, and skin issues. Severe vein disease can lead to ulcers and increase your risk of blood clots.

A pair of gloved hands touching a leg with varicose veins.
Varicose veins

If you are predisposed to varicose veins, there are things you can do to help slow the progression of this condition. 

Tips to Help Prevent Varicose Veins

Certain people are predisposed to developing varicose veins due to genetics, age, pregnancy, hormones, or injury. Still, there are things you can do to help lower your risk. Here are some of our best tips for how to prevent varicose veins. 

Tip #1: Exercise 

Where varicose vein prevention is concerned, exercise is at the top of the list. It’s important to have a regular exercise routine that will tone your cardiovascular system, strengthen your legs, and promote flexibility. Walking, cycling, dancing, and swimming are great for your heart and legs. The important thing is to pick something you enjoy and stick with it!

Exercises that target the calf muscles should also be included in your exercise routine. Having strong calf muscles can lessen the effects of faulty valves, which makes calf-strengthening exercises that much more important. 

Studies have shown that, even with venous insufficiency, it’s possible to regain normal calf pump function through exercise[1]. Talk with your doctor or a personal trainer for advice on an exercise program that best suits your individual needs and interests.

Finally, your exercise program should include a flexibility component. Flexibility promotes healthy circulation and prevents muscle and joint injuries. One way to stay flexible is to practice yoga or start a regular stretching routine. Spot stretches can target the lower legs and should be done daily, especially if you sit or stand for long periods. Aim for a full-body stretching program at least once weekly for the best effects.

Tip #2: Watch your weight 

Excess weight increases blood pressure, putting additional stress on already weak valves. Obesity is also associated with higher levels of inflammation, which triggers problems within the inner lining of the veins and contributes to poor blood flow. 

A healthy diet for preventing varicose veins should include plenty of high-fiber foods, particularly fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Lean proteins and healthy fats, particularly omega-3s, help support a healthy weight and circulatory system. 

It is also important to limit foods that cause or contribute to vein and weight problems, such as sugary, salty, and ultra-processed foods and saturated fats. If weight loss is on your list, consider consulting with a qualified health professional who can formulate a diet you will enjoy while supporting a healthy weight and protecting your circulatory system.

Tip #3: Change your sitting or standing position regularly

If you have a desk job that requires long hours of sitting, look for ways to change position occasionally.

Some simple exercises you can do right at your desk will decrease pressure in your legs and activate the muscular pump that helps move blood upwards. These exercises replace recreational exercise, but they can help get your legs in better shape throughout the workday. They can also be useful during long airplane trips to keep your circulation healthy. 

  • Ankle circles and peddling motions with your feet are easily done while you work.
  • Advanced ankle circles: Trace the alphabet, your name, or the words to your favorite song in the air with your toe. Use your full range of motion to draw big letters. This exercise is fun and improves coordination as well as muscle strength.
  • Take a 30-second stretch break: slide your chair back, straighten one leg, and flex your toes, then bend forward at the hips until you feel a mild stretch in your hamstring and calf muscles. Hold for 10-15 seconds, then reverse and switch to the other leg.

Depending on the type of work you do, you might be able to add a standing desk or a high counter-level surface so that you can alternate sitting and standing while you work. 

Try to avoid crossing your legs. This may benefit your legs and back, making it a good habit to adopt overall.

Consider using an exercise ball chair. This is a large exercise ball that rests in a frame. The surface of the ball is supportive but slightly unstable, which makes you use your core (abdominal and back) muscles, improving your posture and lower body muscle tone.

If your job requires long hours of standing, incorporate these micro exercise breaks that can be done in place at your workstation:

  • Heel raises – Simply raise up onto your toes, hold for a few seconds, then release and repeat several times. This strengthens the calf muscles and promotes venous circulation.
  • Standing hamstring and calf stretch – This alleviates muscle fatigue and increases blood flow. It doesn’t require any special equipment and can be done in a small space. Shift your weight to one leg and raise the toes of the opposite foot so you’re resting on that heel. Fold forward slightly at the hips until you feel a slight stretch in your hamstring and calf muscles of the outstretched leg.
  • Knee raises – Standing in place, start by slowly raising one knee to waist height or as high as you can, then lower and repeat with the other leg. To raise your heart rate, gradually increase your speed. Walk in place this way for 30-60 seconds. This exercise strengthens the hip, gluteal muscles, and calf muscles.

Moving around during the day is one of the best ways to reduce pressure on veins and can help with varicose vein prevention.

Tip #4: Consider nutritional supplements

Nutritional supplements with specific benefits for the veins and circulation can help support vein health. Here are a few supplements with possible benefits:

  • Rutin is a bioflavonoid antioxidant compound found in some plant foods that is particularly good for circulatory health and preventing blood clots. Rutin has been shown to alleviate varicose vein symptoms in the later stages of pregnancy[2].
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), an essential fatty acid component of fish oil, has been shown to reduce the inflammatory cascade that damages the inner walls of veins and contributes to the development and progression of varicose veins[3].
  • Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant known to prevent blood clots. Vitamin E supplementation lowered the risk of venous thrombosis by 37% in a 2015 study[4].

Always consult your physician before adding any nutritional supplements to your diet.

Tip #5: Wear the right clothing

Your choice of clothing can help or hinder your success at varicose vein prevention. Avoid clothing that is tight or restricts movement at the waist, hips, and legs, as these will impair circulation. Similarly, avoid tight-fitting shoes and reserve your high heels for special occasions.

Consider compression stockings or socks to prevent or reduce swelling and discomfort, particularly if you are sitting or standing for long periods. These are made of tight elastic that puts pressure on the lower legs, encouraging blood to flow upwards. 

Compression therapy is highly effective at preventing the recurrence of varicose veins. One study reported only 6% recurrence in participants who wore compression stockings compared to 71% recurrence in the group that didn’t wear them[5].

Varicose Vein Treatment Options

Once you’ve gotten your varicose vein prevention habits dialed in, consider taking action to resolve your existing varicose vein problems with simple procedures that can permanently resolve painful and unsightly varicose veins.

To learn about these treatments, we invite you to schedule a free consultation at Empire Vein Specialists. All of our physicians are board-certified vascular surgeons who specialize in helping people like you. Empire Vein Specialists is the top provider of VenaSeal™, the leading outpatient varicose vein treatment in the USA.

To schedule a free consultation, please call 1-800-VARICOSE (1-800-827-4267) today.


  1. Structured exercise improves calf muscle pump function in chronic venous insufficiency: a randomized trial. J Vasc Surg, 2004. 39(1): p. 79-87
  2. Interventions for varicose veins and leg oedema in pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2015. 2015(10): p. Cd001066
  3. EPA + DHA supplementation reduces PMN activation in microenvironment of chronic venous leg ulcers: A randomized, double-blind, controlled study. Wound Repair Regen, 2017. 25(4): p. 680-690
  4. Vitamin supplementation on the risk of venous thrombosis: results from the MEGA case-control study. Am J Clin Nutr, 2015. 101(3): p. 606-12
  5. Reduction of Varicose Vein Recurrence by Use of Postoperative Compression Stockings. Phlebology: The Journal of Venous Disease, 1994