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Celebrity Health: Summer Sanders

As an Olympic gold medalist and TV host, Summer Sanders relies on her legs, which is why she took on chronic leg pain and won.

Among many things, Summer Sanders is a renowned U.S. Olympic gold medalist in swimming, a reporter, TV announcer and game show host, and a mom of two. To effectively carry such a busy schedule and stay on-the go, she needs strong legs to get her from place to place. Being a swimmer and a health and fitness advocate, it’s assumed that she has the athletic gams to do the job. Unfortunately, they were letting her down.

“My legs had a nagging annoying ache and one bulging vein in my calf, and any moment that I had to put them up I did, especially after a long day,” says Sanders, who noticed the bother when she was pregnant with her now four-year-old son, Charlie or “Spider.”

“And then in February, last year, we were at Disneyland with the kids and I drove home the second night and my leg was aching so bad,” she says. “I knew it shouldn’t be this way. I run all the time. I consider myself very healthy and I try to eat well, but there are other factors that go into this.”

At the same time, her mother, a flight attendant who also suffered from bulging varicose veins in her calves, would take time to put her legs up when she could. It wasn’t until last summer when her mother accompanied her on a trip to the Olympics in London that Sanders realized she was suffered from a serious venous disease.

According to ReThink Varicose Veins (rethinkvaricoseveins.com), more than 30 million Americans – especially women over 50 – suffer from chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), a more serious form of venous disease. When you have a varicose vein, the vein in the leg no longer functions properly and blood begins to pool. However, only 1.9 million seek treatment each year, but Sanders wasn’t going to be one of them. “When we were in London, mom saw a vein center so she stopped in,” Sanders says. “I clearly had a vein that wasn’t working well. That’s when I learned about this non-invasive procedure to fix it and it was an ah-ha moment for me.”

Having her veins repaired was an easy choice for Sanders, whose motto of her website is “easy choices for a better life.” “I couldn’t believe they told me I have it fixed in the same amount of time it takes to get your hair highlighted,” she says. “They say I caught it early and the likelihood of it coming back is slim, but everybody is different.”

Sanders was treated with radiofrequency ablation, a minimally invasive treatment that involves the insertion of a thin, flexible tube into a diseased vein to seal it shut using heat. The treated vein dries up, shrinks and is absorbed by the body. Sanders was able to talk through the 45-minute procedure. Other treatments include radiofrequency ablation, which uses radiofrequency energy, laser ablation and, surgery that removes, or strips, the diseased vein.

“Afterward, I couldn’t believe how light my legs felt,” she says. “You don’t realize how light they are supposed to be until after. You’ll get reintroduced to your legs.”

Today, Sanders is a spokesperson for Rethink Varicose Veins (rethinkvaricoseveins.com), an educational campaign that encourages individuals to think differently about varicose veins.

Highlights of her career:

• Studio host for the newly launched Pac-12 TV Network.

• A member of the U.S. Swimming Hall of Fame

• Eight years as cohost of “NBA Inside Stuff”

• First female game-show host on Nickelodeon

• Olympic analyst and host for NBC during the 1996, 2000, 2002 and 2010 Olympic Games

•Host of Fox’s Sports show “The Sports List”

• Married Olympian and former U.S. Ski Team Alpine racer Erik Schlopy

• Mom to Skye and Spider

• Correspondent for “Good Morning America,” “The Rachael Ray Show” and NBC’s Universal Sports Network

• Author of “Champions Are Raised Not Born.”

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