Sitting with crossed legs does not cause vascular problems, especially varicose or spider veins, said Dr. Darren B. Schneider, chief of vascular and endovascular surgery at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

In fact, Schneider said, most varicose veins are caused by a problem intrinsic to the veins, characterized by weakening of the walls and failure of the valves that control blood flow.

Genetics probably has much more do with varicose veins than the sitting position, Schneider said, adding, “You’re at greater risk of developing them if other family members also have them.”

Anything that increases pressure within the veins combines with the existing vein problem to cause pooling of blood and bulging of the vein walls to form what are called varicosities, he said.

Things that lead to chronic elevation of the pressure within the veins in the abdomen and lower extremities can aggravate the condition.

“That’s why pregnancy, obesity and standing for long periods of time are associated with the development of varicose veins,” Schneider said. Wearing tightfitting clothing or high heels may also make them worse.

Exercise can improve the condition, since muscle contractions in the legs help circulation, he said.

Finally, it is true that an aneurysm or the placement of arterial stents in the lower legs can mean that sitting with legs bent or crossed for long periods could cause problems, Schneider warned, so anyone with these conditions should check with a doctor about the risks of crossed legs.

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