How to Avoid Having Heavy Legs & Swelling of Ankles

Heavy legs and edema in the ankles occur due to vascular insufficiency. In other words, the blood flow in the legs is not adequate. The vascular system is complex, but ultimately, there are two probable situations that lead to this problem: the heart is not pumping hard enough or there is a blockage in the veins or arteries. Managing your cardiac health is a lifelong challenge, but you can take steps to reduce your risk or diminish any issues that are already exist. If you have discomfort in your legs, swelling in the ankles, shortness of breath, chest pain or suspect you have problems with your heart, see a doctor for a proper diagnosis.

A pile of salt on a table with the words, "eat less salt!" scratched into it, next to a salt shaker. (Image: Robyn Mackenzie/iStock/Getty Images)

Step 1

Stop smoking or avoid ever starting. Smoking has detrimental effects on the human body, including the vascular system.

Step 2

Monitor your diet and eliminate salt when possible. Sodium pulls water into the tissue and increases retention. This leads to swelling in the ankles and high-blood pressure. Reduce your fat intake and increase the amount of fiber you eat to maintain a healthy diet.

Step 3

Exercise on a regular basis and include both strength and cardiovascular fitness routines. The heart is a muscle that becomes stronger with exercise. Talk to your doctor before beginning to ensure that exercise is safe for you.

Step 4

Elevate your legs when sitting. This prevents water buildup and improves blood flow. The veins work to deliver blood to the heart, moving against gravity. Keeping your legs above your heart helps maintain the flow of venous blood.

Step 5

Massage your legs, moving your hands from your ankles upward toward your heart to stimulate blood flow.

Step 6

Walk around when you sit for long periods. Sitting for hours without exercising your legs puts you at risk for blood clot formation known as deep vein thrombosis.

Step 7

Monitor your overall health to control other medical problems you may develop. Heavy legs and edema may be secondary to another illness such as diabetes. Follow all instructions given to you by your primary care physician to handle these conditions.

Tip

Compression stockings may help to improve the circulation in your legs, but wear them only as directed by a medical professional.

Warning

See your doctor if your legs feel heavy or if you notice ankle swelling. These problems can be symptoms of possible heart failure and need to be evaluated by a doctor.

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