There are 60,000 miles of blood-carrying vessels in the typical human body -- a major network of hardworking veins, arteries and microscopic capillaries.
Over time, those vessels experience their own share of breakdowns and failures.
You do, however, have some control over their health and well-being.
"A reasonable diet low in fat and activity levels are very important in minimizing your risk for significant vascular disease," says Scott McEnroe, a vascular surgeon with Sentara's Advanced Vascular Treatment Center in Newport News and Virginia Beach.
Common vascular problems?
Venous insufficiency, or impaired veins, is the most common and is usually caused by an inherited weakness in the vein wall.
Arterial insufficiency is more serious and is caused most commonly by arteriosclerosis or "hardening of the arteries." This results in blood vessels narrowing, which can restrict blood flow to major organs and extremities.
Aneurysm disease, also caused by arteriosclerosis, is a ballooning or dilation of the blood vessel, which can result in life-threatening bleeding or formation of blood clots.
Treatments for these vary with the type and severity of disease and can include: lifestyle modification (diet, exercise and tobacco use), outpatient angioplasty (using balloons to open blood vessels) or surgical bypass.
Vein-related problems almost always can be treated in the office with minimally invasive, non-surgical laser therapy.
Are men or women affected more by vein problems?
Women are affected much more frequently than men, probably on the basis of pregnancy and other hormonal influences.
How does dialysis and chemo impact veins?
These patients require frequent treatments using relatively large veins. There are many devices available that help minimize venous trauma and patient discomfort during those treatments.
Are genetics involved in vascular problems?
Genetics plays a strong role in both arterial and venous disease. Seventy percent of people with varicose veins develop them on the basis of an inherited weakness in the vein wall. Individuals with arterial disease tend to inherit traits that result in higher cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which can lead to arteriosclerosis.
Are varicose veins preventable?
Generally, no. Compression stockings may slow progression, but most people don't like wearing the stockings.
How can you make a woman and her varicose vein legs look and feel better?
I have three goals for treatment at the vein center: 1) minimize symptoms; 2) treat in the best cosmetic way; and 3) minimize risk of recurrence.
Most treatments are non-surgical, minimally invasive and performed in the office with just local anesthesia with no discomfort; you immediately return to routine activities. There is no reason to just "live with them" anymore.
Be a little vain about your veins and keep your party dress legs pretty
Keep your party dress legs pretty!