Poor blood circulation affects a person’s quality of life and may even cause severe complications. It brings along a range of potential complications and discomfort that makes even simple tasks extremely challenging to perform. The good news is that there are ways on how you can improve circulation, with exercise being one of the key factors. Keep reading to 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, then you may start experiencing the symptoms of poor circulation which include a tingling/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 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 medical professional 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 for 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.
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.
Symptoms of Poor Blood Flow
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 flow 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 bigger problem.
In this case, contact your health provider to confirm if you might be dealing with a vascular issue.
Someone can also experience discoloration of the skin – usually changes to the color, skin tone or texture of the skin, either on your hands, legs or ankles. It could be dark, brown or purple patches just underneath the skin’s surface, showing an insufficient amount of blood is reaching the body 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. This conditions, especially if they appear suddenly rather than gradually, all warrant urgent medical intervention with your physician or in the emergency room.
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, make sure you contact a vascular professional to discuss your need for further assessment of circulatory problems.
Ways on 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 circulation.
Get Your Blood Pumping with Exercise
Being active is one proven way to increase 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 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 aerobic class. All these exercises not only promote healthy circulation but also improve overall balance and uplift 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 PAD have been able to improve their ABPI score by 20%, showing a considerable improvement in circulation.
Your diet also plays a major role in increasing blood flow and circulation. You want to maintain a nutritious, balanced diet that further helps stabilize your blood pressure while keeping you at a healthy weight. So, increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. Oranges, for instance, are high in Vitamin C and serve as natural blood thinners while strengthening capillary walls.
Include antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. There are many specific foods that help optimize blood flow. Among them include cayenne, leafy greens, fatty fish, walnuts, berries, pomegranate, etc. Also, limit the amount of meat in your diet and eliminate saturated fats. Lower your sodium intake too.
Engaging in regular stretching with proper technique may help promote 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. Anything to get that blood flowing will be a good idea.
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.
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.
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. So, remember to keep that bottle of water handy.
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. 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. Quitting smoking is the single best action an individual can take to improve their longevity and long term health.
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. If you have any concerns about poor venous circulation in your legs, don’t hesitate to contact us at Virginia Vein Care. 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.