Every tissue in the body relies on a constant flow of blood to deliver oxygen and other much-needed nutrients.  Arteries bring oxygen-rich blood from the heart to tissues, while veins bring the deoxygenated blood back to the heart to be replenished.  When there are problems with the vascular system, this process happens inefficiently and leads to a range of health consequences.  

Venous insufficiency is a common disorder characterized by poor blood flow in the veins.  According to a 2005 study published in Annals of Epidemiology, up to 40% of women and 17% of males suffer from chronic venous insufficiency.  Even more people have varicose veins, a common sign of poor vascular health, with up to 73% of women and 56% of men reporting that they have varicose veins.  Understanding the risk factors associated with varicose veins and venous insufficiency can help you manage your vascular health.

  • Age over 50.  As we grow older, the walls of our veins tend to weaken.  This prevents them from efficiently transporting blood back to the heart.  Vein doctors find that individuals over age 50 are at higher risk for venous insufficiency.
  • Being a woman.  Women tend to report higher incidence of varicose veins and venous insufficiency.  Although the exact mechanisms underlying this effect are unclear, women should be vigilant about signs of venous insufficiency and seek vein treatment if they think they may have vein problems.
  • Being overweight or obese.  Being above a healthy body weight places more stress on your vascular system.  Your veins need to work harder to pump blood, making it more likely for blood to pool in the extremities.  Vascular surgeons may recommend that you lose weight after varicose vein treatment to reduce the risk of future vein problems.
  • Family history.  Genetic risk factors may make you more likely to develop varicose veins.  Scientists have uncovered certain genes that are associated with higher risk of venous insufficiency.
  • Smoking.  In addition to affecting the lungs, smoking reducing the health of veins.  The weakening of vein walls makes smokers have a significantly higher risk of venous insufficiency.
  • Inactivity.  We need to maintain a minimum level of movement to keep our blood pumping effectively.  People with a sedentary lifestyle are more likely to develop venous insufficiency, even if their weight is under control.
  • Pregnancy.  Pregnant women often develop varicose veins in the legs and groin area.  Risk of venous insufficiency rises with each additional pregnancy a woman undergoes.
  • Long periods of sitting or standing.  People who work in industries that require lengthy periods of sitting or standing — office workers, factory line workers, baristas, teachers — are at increased risk of varicose veins.  Vein clinic doctors recommend that people get up for a brief walk at least once per hour to keep blood moving effectively.