Impact of Cold Weather on Circulation and Varicose Veins

June 4, 2020 Dr Zil

If you suffer from poor circulation, beware! Cold weather may be potentially dangerous to your health. Cold weather increases the risk of serious illness from coughs, lung and heart problems, falls or the flu, but it can also have an effect on your veins. Here are just some of the impacts of cold weather on circulation and varicose veins, and tips on how you can stay healthy this winter. 

Cold weather and circulation

Scientists have dubbed this the “winter cardiovascular disease phenomenon.” It’s the observation that cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack, stroke and pulmonary embolism occur more frequently in the fall and winter months.

One explanation is that colder weather causes veins and arteries to constrict, putting immense strain on patients whose coronary circulation is already compromised. This extra demand may prevent the heart muscle from receiving adequate oxygen, leading to a host of cardiovascular events and disorders. 

Another theory is that the sudden drop in temperature results in the body having to work harder to regulate its own temperature. During this process, all the thermal stress can lead to increased blood viscosity, stickiness and formation of blood clots.

What about cold weather and varicose veins?

Fortunately, cold weather isn’t all bad news if you suffer from venous insufficiency. While hot weather can impair healthy circulation by causing veins to dilate and the blood to pool, cooler weather has the opposite effect. 

Although it’s possible to experience slowed circulation in small blood vessels (such as fingers and toes), cooler temperatures can ease the discomfort of varicose veins. Symptoms such as swelling, cramping and painful legs can become less severe as the temperature drops. 

Cold weather means less activity, which can exacerbate venous insufficiency

The paradox of colder weather means that although varicose vein symptoms may improve, the change from an active to sedentary lifestyle during the fall and winter months can be just as problematic. 

Patients are less likely to engage in regular outdoor activities such as gardening, walking or biking, limiting the amount of beneficial exercise they need to maintain good blood flow in their legs.

Tips to encourage healthy blood circulation during colder months

Stay active – while it may seem daunting to keep your exercise regime going when it’s cold outside, it’s important to keep moving. Invest in some seasonal clothing and shoes to help you stay comfortable and warm during outdoor activities. 

If you can’t get outside, another option is to regularly walk around the house or office to prevent yourself from sitting or standing for too long. If your building has stairs, use it during lunchtime to get your steps in and facilitate healthy blood circulation.

Avoid fatty and salty foods – it may be tempting to indulge in rich ‘comfort’ foods during the winter months as you’re bundled comfortably on the couch. Doctors normally advise patients to limit the intake of salty foods as these can promote unnecessary fluid retention. 

Furthermore, foods rich in saturated fats can impair your endothelial cell function and eventually your overall vascular system. Instead, choose plenty of colourful fruits, vegetables and foods high in fibre and nutritional content. 

Wear compression stockings – To ease symptoms and discourage new varicose veins from forming, particularly during the colder months, compression stockings have been shown to promote circulation and significantly improve venous insufficiency. 

Unlike regular socks or stockings, compressional garments use specially designed elastic material to gradually tighten and support the surface veins in the lower legs. This strategically applied pressure helps swollen veins to constrict and propels the flow of blood back to the heart more efficiently.

Compression stockings are now available for purchase at The Vein Institute Shop

Treat your varicose veins – the best way to avoid the discomfort associated with varicose veins is to have them treated by a vein specialist. Fortunately, there are a number of highly effective non-surgical approaches available that can be performed during a quick visit to our clinic. 

Image of legs, the left leg has normal functioning veins, the right has varicose veins which are visible on the skin

Seek expert advice

The doctors at The Vein Institute specialise in varicose vein treatment. We offer patients a comprehensive treatment program to treat varicose veins, with non-surgical laser treatment techniques. The benefits of laser treatment to patients are;

  • Walk-in walk-out treatment
  • 98% success rate
  • Extremely effective
  • Can be performed at a clinic (no hospitalisation)
  • No general anaesthetic
  • Medicare rebates apply
  • No downtime or time away from work