Did you know that there are roughly 60,000 miles of blood vessels in your body? Your circulatory system is massive and includes your heart (which pumps 5 quarts of blood through your body’s blood vessels every minute) and other muscles. When your blood circulation is poor, however, your cells are unable to get all the oxygen and nutrients they need.
Poor blood circulation affects a person’s quality of life and may even cause severe health complications. It can cause a range of potential conditions and discomfort that makes even simple tasks extremely challenging to perform.
The good news is that there are ways to improve circulation and vascular health, with exercise being one of the key factors. Let’s learn more about poor circulation and how to reverse the effects for a healthier and safer lifestyle.
Understanding Poor Blood Circulation
Your body’s circulatory system is responsible for moving oxygen, blood and nutrients through your entire body. Whenever blood flow to a specific body part is slowed down, you may start experiencing the symptoms of poor circulation which include a tingling or numbing sensation in the hands or feet, swollen toes, cold hands and feet and so much more.
Most common symptoms will be experienced in your extremities, such as your hands and legs.
For many people, the symptoms of poor circulation are left undiagnosed and ignored as many individuals attribute the pain and discomfort to aging. If not addressed, poor blood flow can develop into serious complications such as heart attack, stroke or even death.
Causes of Poor Blood Circulation
Poor leg circulation also commonly referred to as peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a serious vascular condition that causes poor blood flow by narrowing blood vessels and arteries. According to the CDC, an estimated 8.5 million people aged 40 and above have PAD in the United States. It occurs when plaque builds up in blood vessels restricting blood flow.
It should, however, be noted that poor circulation is not a condition in itself; rather, it could be an indication of other underlying health issues which is why it’s important to seek the help of a vascular specialist to treat the root cause. The most common conditions that are associated with poor circulation include diabetes, obesity, heart conditions and arterial issues. It is also strongly associated with family history.
Another cause of poor blood flow is blood clots. Clots can be either in the arteries or the veins. A clot can restrict blood from moving to or from organs and it can have severe consequences such as a heart attack, stroke or pulmonary embolism.
Being overweight and excessive smoking of tobacco products also increases the risk of poor blood circulation.
Symptoms of Poor Blood Circulation
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, circulatory system diseases are the leading cause of death in the U.S., claiming an average of 647,000 people every year. Poor circulation also leads to severe venous disorders, including, varicose veins, spider veins, leg ulcers or even skin discoloration.
In light of all these effects, it’s extremely crucial for individuals to be informed of the common symptoms of poor blood circulation to help them seek help in a timely manner.
Numbness and Tingling in Extremities
This is one of the common symptoms usually characterized by a sensation of pins and needles poking under the skin.
Cold Hands and Feet
Interrupted or poor blood circulation causes the hands and feet to feel colder than the rest of the body. You might brush it off as normal cold but if it happens frequently, it could be a sign of a bigger problem.
In this case, contact Virginia Vein Care to determine if you’re dealing with a vascular issue.
Someone can also experience discoloration of the skin – usually changes to the color, tone or texture of the skin, either on your hands, legs or ankles. It could manifest in dark, brown or purple patches just underneath the skin’s surface, showing an insufficient amount of blood is reaching the body’s tissues.
If this happens, you could be dealing with an underlying vein disease caused by poor circulation.
Swelling in the Feet, Ankles, and Legs
Persistent swelling on your foot, ankle or leg may indicate a more serious underlying health issue that needs to be treated right away. For some people, their feet hurt when lying down. Others experience heaviness and stiff joints. A common cause of this symptom is when the veins are unable to transport blood adequately resulting in pooling of blood in the legs.
Shortness of Breath
This is another common symptom of blood that isn’t flowing as it should. If you experience shortness of breath, take note of when it happens, how often it occurs, and other related symptomatic information to help your doctor review your case.
This could be due to arterial or valvular heart disease or secondary to pulmonary blood clots from deep vein disease. These conditions, especially if they appear suddenly rather than gradually, all warrant urgent medical intervention with your physician or in the emergency room.
You may experience other symptoms as well if you suffer from poor circulation such as:
- Lack of energy or concentration
- Thinning hair or a receding hairline
- Delayed or slow healing due to a weakened immune system
- Erectile dysfunction in men
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, make sure you contact a vascular health professional to discuss your need for further assessment of circulatory problems.
How to Improve Blood Circulation
Usually, there is a lot you can do to prevent poor circulation. Besides following your doctor’s recommendations, you can make certain lifestyle changes that will significantly reduce your risk factors for poor blood flow and improve your circulation.
If you’re wondering how you can improve circulation, take a look at the following tips and implement as many as you can.
Get Your Blood Pumping with Exercise
Being active is one proven way to improve blood circulation. Although it might be difficult at first, start with simple exercises like brisk walks and increase the intensity as your body adjusts. Walking is a great exercise for those with poor circulation as it promotes the production of new blood vessels which helps improve blood circulation and enhance exercise tolerance.
Alternatively, you can ride a bike, run, swim or take an aerobics class. All these exercises not only promote healthy circulation but also improve overall balance and improve your mood. Being active also helps with weight loss, making it easier for your blood to flow efficiently.
This will further improve your cardiovascular health. Research has shown that after exercising for 6 months, people with Peripheral Arterial Disease (or PAD) have been able to improve their ABPI score by 20%, showing a considerable improvement in circulation.
Shoot for 30 minutes of exercise 5 to 7 days a week.
Check Your Blood Pressure
When your blood pressure is too high, it can cause arteriosclerosis, which hardens your arteries and slows blood flow.
You should aim for a blood pressure of 120 mmHg over 80 mmHg or less, but you should check with a physician on what your best numbers should be for your age and health. Check your numbers once a month using a home blood pressure monitor or at your pharmacy’s kiosk.
Your diet also plays a major role in increasing blood flow and circulation. You want to maintain a nutritious, balanced diet that helps stabilize your blood pressure while keeping you at a healthy weight. This means increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables.
Oranges, for instance, are high in Vitamin C and serve as natural blood thinners while strengthening capillary walls.
There are many specific foods that help optimize blood flow, among them are cayenne, leafy greens, fatty fish, walnuts, berries, and pomegranate. Also, limit the amount of meat in your diet and eliminate saturated fats. Lower your sodium intake too.
In addition, Include antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. You can do this by consuming fish such as tuna and salmon two to three times a week.
Taking vitamins and supplements can help you get the nutrients you need to improve your circulation and overall vascular health as well. Focus on Vitamin E, B vitamins, and Iron supplements.
Engaging in regular stretching with proper technique may help improve blood circulation. Do some arm circles or bend over and touch your toes. You can also lift your knees up and down in a marching pattern, sway your hips or speak to a pilates instructor for more positions that enable you to increase blood flow to every area of the body. Yoga is also a good way to improve overall blood circulation.
Anything to get that blood flowing will be a good idea. You’d be surprised how much good can come from spending just a couple of minutes stretching when it comes to your circulation. This is especially true if you spend most of your day working at a desk in a sitting position.
Elevate Your Legs
If you’re used to crossing your legs or sitting for a long time, you may be disrupting your normal blood flow. These positions cut off blood supply to the legs and may cause your ankles or feet to swell. Try elevating your legs against the wall or using a pillow to avoid blood from pooling in the lower limbs.
Practice Dry Brushing
Prior to your daily bath or shower, stimulate blood flow by gently brushing your skin with a soft-bristle brush in long, upward strokes. Doctors recommend starting at your feet and moving up to your heart.
Hydrotherapy involves the use of water at various temperatures to promote better blood flow and overall wellbeing. Your hydrotherapy treatment will help stimulate blood flow to the feet and the entire body while boosting hormonal function.
Drink Black or Green Tea
These types of tea are rich in antioxidants which can work to widen your blood vessels, allowing your body to pump blood more easily.
Taking Iron Supplements or Consuming Iron-Rich Foods if You Are Anemic
Those with low iron have insufficient red blood cells to circulate oxygen through your body. Speak with your physician to determine if iron supplements are right for you, or you can start eating more food rich in iron such as spinach, legumes, and moderate amounts of red meat.
Did you know that 90% of your blood plasma is made of water? Drinking plenty of water is good at keeping your blood moving freely. Try to drink 8 glasses of water each day, and more if it’s hot out or if you’ve been exercising.
This doesn’t necessarily mean chugging 8 glasses of water each day. Your focus should be on fluids which includes, tea, broth, and milk. You can carry a bottle of cold water with you to ensure you stay hydrated. Make sure to drink as you eat to help with digestion. You can also try adding fruit, herbs, or naturally-derived sugar-free flavors to help you consume more water.
Get a Massage
Blood circulation is improved through the application of manual pressure during a massage. As your body is pressed and pulled, blood flows through areas that may be congested stimulating blood flow.
Additionally, lactic acid is flushed from the muscles improving the circulation of the lymphatic system which helps relieve tension and muscle discomfort. Massages also help with the circulation of your body’s lymph fluid which removes metabolic waste from your muscles and internal organs, resulting in lower blood pressure.
Make sure you find an experienced massage therapist and let them know that you’re really looking to increase blood flow through the session.
You can also consider trying compression stockings or pneumatic compression devices to help with the application of pressure if your doctor advises.
Quitting smoking is a healthy decision overall, and it also helps improve blood circulation. The detrimental habit damages healthy blood vessels and can lead to serious issues especially if you have existing heart problems.
The active ingredient in cigarettes, Nicotine (which is also the main ingredient in e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco), causes damage to your arteries and thickens your blood to the point that it has trouble moving throughout your body.
Quitting smoking is the single best action an individual can take to improve their longevity and long term health.
Limit Your Alcohol Intake
While moderate alcohol consumption is fine for most people, you should know that moderate refers to two drinks at most per day. Consuming more alcohol than this can cause your arteries to harden, limiting your body’s ability to let blood flow the way it should.
Reach out to Virginia Vein Care for Issues with Poor Circulation
If you’re experiencing poor circulation, for one reason or another, your blood isn’t getting where it needs to be. Poor circulation can be either related to the arterial or the venous system. Improve your blood circulation by incorporating the above tips into your daily life.
The primary symptoms of problems within the venous circulation include heaviness, swelling, varicose veins, discoloration, cramping, restless leg and excessive spider veins. Initial consultations with vein experts, from the privacy of your home, are available to help you discuss your concerns.