Blood circulation plays a key role in the body’s ability to function at peak performance. It supplies oxygen and nutrients to the brain, heart, and other organs. Good circulation also keeps your skin looking vibrant and youthful by promoting cell rejuvenation.
How Poor Blood Circulation Affects Your Body
Without adequate blood circulation, your body won’t thrive. Here are just a few problems that can occur without good blood flow.
Toxins: Harmful toxins and pollutants quickly build up in your cells and organs.
Arterial Plaque Buildup: Arteries will frequently develop layers of plaque that promote cardiovascular decline. Blood clots can also develop which increase the likelihood of a stroke or coronary issue.
Digestive Issues: Impaired blood circulation causes problems with the digestive tract.
Cognitive Decline: Cognitive abilities wane because in order for the brain to store memories and fire its neurons successfully it requires oxygen rich blood. Oxygen deprivation causes brain cells to die which may contribute to long term damage and dementia.
What Causes Poor Blood Circulation?
Poor blood circulation is not a health condition by itself but an indicator of larger problems within the body. A variety of factors such as aging, a sedentary lifestyle, peripheral artery disease, Raynaud’s disease, diabetes, arterial disorders, nerve damage, cardiovascular issues, thyroid disease, pregnancy, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, and obesity all contribute to decreased circulation.
Symptoms of Poor Blood Circulation
Many people ignore the warning signs of poor blood circulation. Often experiencing one or more of these symptoms is the only indication that there is a physical problem. Being in tune with your body and promptly seeking a medical evaluation is often the best course of action to steer off future problems. Early diagnosis of any condition is always important so you can seek a viable treatment and improve your circulation problems.
Here are several symptoms that might indicate circulatory problems.
- Muscle cramps
- Tingling, especially of the extremities
- Stinging (often referred to as a feeling of pins and needles)
- Erectile dysfunction
- Varicose veins
- Dark, under eye discolorations
- Vision loss
- Memory loss
- Wounds that do not heal quickly
- Loss of appetite
- Cold sensations
- Physically cold hands and feet
- Discolored, bluish skin such as the hands, feet, or lips.
- Weak nails
- Hair loss
- Let ulcers
Diagnosing Blood Circulation Problems
If you suspect that you may be suffering from circulation problems, you should visit a physician for a full physical. Your physician will evaluate your family history and assess
your risk factors. He may also order a variety of diagnostic tests.
- Physical Exam: The physician will look for swelling in the extremities and any discoloration of the skin or tissue. He will also exam any areas of pain.
- Antibodies Blood Test: An antibodies blood test detects inflammatory conditions that may cause poor circulation.
- Blood Sugar Test
- Blood Tests: A variety of blood tests will look for high levels of D dimer
- CT Scan
- Blood Pressure Tests
Treatment of Poor Blood Circulation
Treatment of poor circulation typically depends on what is causing the problem. Here are few common treatments that many physicians prescribe.
- Compression Socks: Compression socks can reduce swelling and pain in the legs and feet caused by poor circulation.
- Exercise: A specialized exercise program may be prescribed.
- Medications: Pharmaceutical medications such as clot dissolving, insulin, blood thinners, calcium channel blockers and alpha blockers may be prescribed.
- Surgery: Surgery such as laser or endoscopic surgery to treat vascular problems.
Ways You can Improve Your Blood Circulation
You should work with your doctor to develop a comprehensive treatment plan to address any underlying health conditions that may be causing the poor circulation. However, there are ways that you can also boost your body’s circulation and develop a healthier lifestyle.
Here are 25 ways that you can naturally enhance your blood circulation:
- Quit Smoking: If you smoke, then you need to quit. Smoking not only causes circulation problems but also cardiovascular conditions, high blood pressure, arterial disorders, and a greater likelihood of having a stroke.
- Exercise: Exercise gets your heart pumping which forces the blood through your circulatory system. Your lungs also increase your body’s oxygen consumption during exercise which laces the blood with the excess oxygen. Jogging, swimming, biking, walking, running and aerobic exercise are all ideal ways to improve your blood’s circulation. Be sure to consult with your physician before embarking on any new exercise program to make sure you can physically handle the rigors.
- Improve Your Diet: Eating fruits, such as citrus, that are high in vitamin C helps naturally thin the blood. Goji berries also have the reputation of increasing circulation. Watermelon contains lycopene which is an antioxidant that improves blood circulation according to research done by the American Heart Association. The capillary walls also become stronger.
- Far Infrared Radiation Therapy: Far infrared radiation therapy (FIR) can be delivered to the body via a mat that can be purchased online or at a variety of health stores. The mat helps relieve tension, relax overworked muscles, reduce inflammation and increases blood flow. FIR is electricity free and depends on the body’s own heat to operate. It can safely be used while sleeping or anytime you are relaxing.
- Clothing Choices: Tight clothing reduces blood flow. During the winter months, you should dress in layers and stay warm. Cold conditions reduce circulation.
- Stay Moving: If you have to sit at a desk or in an airplane chair for a long period of time, it is important to get up every fifteen or thirty minutes to stretch your legs. Walking around a bit gets your blood flowing. Even just a couple of minutes of getting on your feet and moving can make a drastic improvement in your overall blood movement.
- Drink Lots of Water: Water not only flushes out toxins from your body but it also improves your blood’s ability to flow freely. According to the Mayo Clinic, adults should drink eight ounces of water a day. Ideally, you should sip the water throughout the day.
- L-arginine: L-arginine has been found to improve blood flow according to MedlinePlus. It can be taken as a supplement or consumed naturally in foods. Nuts have been found to contain high levels of l-arginine.
- Green Tea: For centuries green tea has been known to provide numerous health benefits. One of those is increasing blood circulation. To reap the health benefits of green tea, it is suggested that you drink two or three cups a day. You can enjoy the beverage warm or cold. It can even be sweetened a bit to make it more palatable with honey or pure, raw sugar.
- Dark Chocolate: Dark chocolate is a decadent taste treat, but now you can also consume it to boost your circulation. WebMD reports that studies have shown that consuming dark chocolate could increase blood flow to the legs. Dark chocolate contains polyphenols, which helps increase circulation by encouraging the blood vessels to expand.
- Reduce Sodium Intake: Sodium significantly raises blood pressure and causes bloating in many people. A diet with excessive salt consumption causes hardening of the arteries which reduces the blood’s ability to flow freely throughout the body. Limiting salt intake helps improve blood flow and improves your overall health.
- Cayenne: Sprinkling cayenne pepper on your food will not only add zest to your recipes but also improve your health. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center capsaicin, the active ingredient found in cayenne, may be a viable option to treat circulatory problems and reduce irregular heart rhythms.
- Gingko Biloba: Gingko Biloba is known to be a memory booster, but it also improves circulation by increasing cerebral blood flow, according to research done by the John Hopkins School of Medicine. The supplement helps blood become less sticky and opens up the body’s blood vessel.
- Lift Your Legs: Lifting your legs above heart level helps vein drainage in the legs and improves circulation. Ideally, you should elevate your legs for 20 minutes. Raising your legs also reduces leg, foot, and ankle swelling. While your feet are elevated you can also wiggle your toes and your feet to further move the blood along. Lifting your legs is highly beneficial and can be done several times throughout the day.
- Limit or Eliminate Alcohol Consumption: Moderate alcohol consumption is harmless, however, excessive drinking is not healthy. Over time, it causes hardened arteries and reduced blood flow. Alcohol causes dehydration, reduces blood flow, and raises blood pressure.
- Hydrotherapy: Soaking in a hot tub of water improves circulation by opening up the blood vessels in the body and directing the blood from the body’s vital organs. Cold water closes up the vessels and directs the blood back to the organs. So alternating between a hot bath/cold bath or hot shower/cold shower.
- Massage Therapy: A firm but gentle massage not only relaxes you but also improves the blood’s flow within the body. Enjoying a massage several times a week is ideal for most people.
- Stretching: Stretching throughout the day benefits the cardiovascular system. Simple daily stretching increases the blood flow to the muscles and vital organs. It is ideal for anyone living sedentary life or who spends an excessive amount of time seated at a desk.
- Boost Iron: Consuming iron rich foods increases the blood’s ability to carry oxygen. Kidney beans, red meat, lentils, whole-grains, and dark, leafy vegetables all contain iron.
- Increase Your Folate: Folate is a B vitamin that aids the body in the production of blood. Beans, peas, dark leafy veggies, cereals, beans, and fruits contain varying levels of folate.
- Body Brush: Exfoliating your body with a loofah or sponge during a bath or shower encourages the blood to flow freely. It also improves the body’s lymphatic system. Use brisk, firm sweeps and work your way across your body in the direction of your heart.
- Phytoestrogens: Phytoestrogens are plant-derived natural estrogens. Researchers at the Vascular Surgery Research Laboratory, Division of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Harvard Medical School have found that phytoestrogens have numerous vascular benefits. Phytoestrogens can be found in sunflower seeds, soya, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and linseeds.
- Trace Minerals: Trace minerals play a crucial role in keeping the body’s circulatory system functioning properly. Selenium, zinc, copper, and manganese all work to keep the arteries viable and improve blood flow. Trace minerals can be found in Brazil nuts, pistachios, cashews, and pumpkin seeds.
- Hawthorn: Hawthorn has been used by naturopathic doctors as far back as the 1st century to treat disorders of the heart. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, it helps improve circulation and provides many other cardiovascular benefits. As with any supplement, you should consult with your physician prior to taking it.
- Buckwheat: Buckwheat contains rutin which is a natural bioflavonoid. It strengthens the body’s vascular system and helps alleviate varicose veins. It can be added to pancakes, muffins or a variety of other baked goods.
Lifestyle Changes to Improve Blood Flow
The above list of 25 ways to improve blood circulation are all successful options, however, one of the best ways to get your blood flowing is just to better your life by creating a happy environment. In today’s world, stress has become an all too commonly accepted aspect of life. Unfortunately, stress is detrimental to your health and emotional well-being. Reducing stress and focusing on your own inner happiness helps create a balance between your mind and your body. Many people find that yoga, breathing exercises, aromatherapy, owning a pet, seeking a hobby such as gardening, or simple meditation all aid in reducing everyday stress.
The Importance of Blood Circulation
Modern day lifestyles have become more immobile than previous generous. Many careers now have workers sitting in front of a computer or phone system for long hours. Store workers stand in one place for hours without moving. The lack of motion wreaks havoc on the body’s blood circulation. The long term effects of the loss of adequate blood flow are sure to contribute to a variety of physical ailments and disorders. Ideally, getting your blood flowing is one of the optimum answers to maintaining your health and physical well being.