Our current medical system waits until we become sick and then tries to heal us. Wellness is an approach to medicine that tries to prevent disease, and in doing so, also improves the quality of our lives.
The health of our legs is important. Our legs account for 40% of our body weight. They are how we get around, and how we enjoy ourselves. Our legs allow us to participate in other wellness activities like walking or Tai Chi. Our legs also help us feel good about ourselves. No one likes to have swollen legs or thick ulcerated skin. It’s no fun wearing long pants all of the time in order to hide our legs.
So how do we make our legs look and feel great? Wellness really comes down to the health of our cells. We are well and feel good when our cells are functioning normally. In order to do this, our cells really don’t ask too much. They need oxygen and nutrients to perform their functions. They then need to get rid of CO2 and waste products that they produce. The circulatory system is a critical component of providing nutrients to the cells and washing away the waste products. Although, we typically think of the circulatory system as the heart and the 5 liters of blood circulating in the arteries and veins, the real work gets done at the cellular level by the 11 liters of interstitial fluid which circulates around all of the cells in our body.
The one part of the body where this circulation of interstitial fluid can be compromised is in the legs. The legs are uniquely subjected to the challenges of gravity. When we are standing or sitting, the interstitial fluid in our legs accumulates and this is not healthy for the cells. When this occurs our cells are sitting in their own waste.
Visit the Leg Elevation Classroom to learn more about the circulation of interstitial fluid.
The most efficient way to empty that “cellular bathwater” is to take advantage of gravity, the same force that caused the problem to begin with. Elevating our legs and lowering the hydrostatic pressure draws the interstitial fluid back into the capillary. Then, gravity helps to get the venous blood back to the heart where it can be pumped to the appropriate organs in order to remove the CO2 and cellular waste products. Maintaining a thin layer of interstitial fluid also allows for the efficient delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the cells. Daily leg elevation is a simple practical approach to addressing the one area of the body that is really at risk for the accumulation and stagnation of the interstitial fluid.
Prevention is another component of wellness. Since half of the adult population has some form of venous disease, there is clearly room for improvement. This is not a big surprise given that the veins in our legs are subjected to the challenges of gravity from the minute we wake up in the morning until we go to bed at night.
Having an active lifestyle helps to improve venous blood flow. For example, walking and deep breathing are 2 things that clearly increase venous blood flow. However, as our lifestyle has changed we are not taking advantage of many of these mechanisms. Even, if we exercise every day, many of us still have jobs which require us to sit or stand for most of the day. This sedentary lifestyle combined with the challenges of gravity sets us up for chronic venous disease.
We can lower our risk of developing chronic venous disease by elevating our legs daily in order to lower the pressure in the veins and empty the veins of stagnant venous blood. In addition, we should try to remain as active as possible. If we have jobs that require prolonged standing or sitting we should consider wearing fitted compression stockings, to help prevent pooling of blood in our veins.
Visit the Leg Elevation Classroom to learn more about the science behind the benefits of daily leg elevation.