Are your varicose veins a sign of heart trouble?

About 300,000 people die of blood clots every year. There are also 600,000 new cases of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) occurring annually as well. Sometimes going undetected, DVT is a serious vein problem that could lead to a potentially fatal Pulmonary Embolism (PE), where a blood clot travels to the lungs.

Many Americans, however, may not realize these problems exist. They have been led to believe that vein disease – often first seen as varicose veins in the legs – is strictly a cosmetic concern. That couldn't be further from the truth, says Dr. Nick Morrison, a trained phlebologist and founder of Morrison Vein Institute in Phoenix. "If you're concerned about your legs not looking great this summer, you should also understand the bigger connection to the heart that your venous system has," Morrison noted.

An overlooked connection
The veins in your legs pump blood to your heart through millions of small veins and some larger ones like the great saphenous vein (GSV) and the lesser saphenous vein (LSV). This allows blood to move to the lungs where it can be oxygenated. The heart then pumps the fresh blood through arteries throughout the rest of the body. Considerable attention is given to arterial disease and the plaque build-up that taxes the heart as it pushes blood through those constricted channels. But when veins fail, oxygen-poor blood pools in areas of the legs. The veins bulge into varicosities or smaller spider veins. Unique valves inside these veins that help keep the blood moving up the leg no longer function – and your heart suffers as a result. "If your veins are in bad shape, less blood is making its way to the heart," Morrison said. "A compromised venous system is really the precursor to heart troubles."

Signs and symptoms
With varicose veins, certain aches and pains can creep up. The American College of Phlebology (ACP) says the following symptoms are often mistakenly attributed to problems like arthritis, aging or muscle fatigue. But they are signs your venous system needs attention.

• Leg swelling
• Restless legs
• Itching and burning in the legs
• Leg heaviness, aches
• Leg cramps, throbbing

"If you have at least three of these symptoms, you should get a vein checkup," Morrison added. "These symptoms often go untreated because they come on so slowly through the years. So it's really common for people to think they're just signs of aging."

What you can do right now

• Lifestyle changes can help. If you have varicose veins, Morrison suggests the following:
• Avoid standing or sitting for long periods of time.
• Wear compression stockings as much as possible.
• Adopt a diet rich with fruits and vegetables. Visit for meal-planning guidance.
• See a specialist who uses advanced ultrasound technology, which can detect more serious vein problems.

For more information about the latest treatments for your varicose veins or to take a more in depth questionnaire, visit Morrison Vein, call 480-860-6455 or email the Morrison Vein Institute at

Spotlight on Terri Morrison
As a managing partner & co-founder of Morrison Vein Institute, I have had the privilege of building a small business into a multi-million dollar medical practice that specializes in minimally invasive, in-office vein procedures and vein treatments. I am also a minority owner in a women-owned business. In addition, I lecture nationally and internationally on vein disease and am a national trainer in marketing and sclerotherapy.

Tell us about your first job.
My first job was in Omaha, Nebraska as a new registered nurse in a pediatric intensive care unit. While there were heartbreaking moments working with childhood illnesses and diseases, it was extremely rewarding and provided me with great experience. Afterward, I moved to Phoenix where my first job was in the Maricopa Medical Center Burn Unit. There, the roles reversed, and it was the patients who taught me every aspect of nursing over the course of four and a half years. 

What is the driving force behind your success?
I'm extremely driven. My perseverance, loyalty and passion for customer service have been instrumental in my career.

What continues to motivate you on a daily basis?

Professionally, my passion for excellence in vein care motivates me daily to provide the patients of Morrison Vein Institute with nothing short of the very best vein care available. As an added perk, this pursuit has afforded me the opportunity to travel with my husband, children and family - my main sources of motivation.

What has been the defining turning point in your career to date?
Becoming a private pilot where I worked through commercial instrument and twin engine ratings was a turning point in my career. It showed me that I could do anything I put my mind to, as long as I persevere.

What has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
Being faced with the recession after I worked so hard to grow my business was extremely challenging. Having to down-size and let go of any employees was not easy, but I overcame it by enjoying my loyal employees. Another personal challenge I faced was losing three of my young friends...friends whose lives ended way too soon.

What advice would you give your younger self?
I would laugh and dance more with my children.

What advice would you give other women just starting their career?
Take care of yourself, not just your family and friends. Be sure to take vacations with and without your kids sometimes. As I used to tell my kids, "If you take time to rest, you'll be a happier mama and a happier wife." Also, be loyal, trustworthy and pays off.

What three words best describe you?
Hardworking, loving and loyal.

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