How to Improve Poor Blood Circulation
It is important to distinguish poor blood circulation as a symptom rather than a disease. A slowing or impediment of our cardiovascular system is the result of an underlying condition which can include high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes or many other health issues. Seeking a physician's advice is imperative as the correct diagnosis from a professional is the most effective way of improving blood circulation. oneHOWTO goes into the general methods of how to improve poor blood circulation to give you an idea of both the lifestyle changes you may need to make as well as some specific natural treatments you can implement. Keep reading for more details on how to improve circulation and, hopefully, promote better overall health.
Overview of blood circulation
Our cardiovascular system is a complicated system of blood vessels and arteries which transports nutrients around our body and incorporates our lymphatic system. These nutrients are vital in keeping our internal organs alive, but also affect our extremities and our skin. This is why poor circulation can be seen in a person's physical appearance, so integral is blood circulation to our overall health.
Poor blood circulation means poor transportation of oxygen around the body, the vast majority of which is combined to haemoglobin molecules. If we don't have a healthy circulation of oxygen then essentially it leads to parts of our body being unable to ‘breathe’ properly, i.e. convert oxygen into carbon dioxide. This lack of oxygen and other nutrients can lead to conditions such as:
- High blood pressure: the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure (hypertension) will be. This narrowing can be caused by many reasons, but is often the result of lifestyle issues such as the build up of cholesterol. Even those who are not visibly overweight may suffer from hypertension which is why it can be a particularly insidious killer leading to heart attacks.
- Atherosclerosis: this is another narrowing of arteries, but this is caused by the build up of plaque (fat, cholesterol, calcium and more). It is linked to hypertension and can affect the kidneys, lead to organ failure and increase risk of stroke.
- Peripheral artery disease: this is atherosclerosis except localized to the extremities (e.g. hands and feet). It can lead to legs cramps, numbness or other issues.
- Vasculitis: rather than narrowing of blood vessels, vasculitis is their inflammation. It can affect the nervous system, cause fever, impinge respiration and lead to heart attacks.
Exercise to benefit circulation
As poor blood circulation is most commonly linked to lifestyle choices, affecting this area is one of the best ways to make improvements. Just as a combination of balanced diet and exercise will help you lose weight, it will also be beneficial to circulation. As we stated before, this is secondary to a diagnosis from a doctor who will be able to give you a more exact course of treatment.
Exercising at least three times a week is necessary to keep your health in check. This doesn't mean you can be sedentary for the rest of the time either. You need to incorporate some sort of exercise into your everyday life. Whether this means walking to work instead of taking the bus, being more active with the kids or simply taking the dog on a more energetic route, there are many ways to increase physical activity.
There are different types of exercise and that which benefits the cardiovascular system is the kind you need to improve circulation. You probably have heard of this referred to as simply a ‘cardio’ workout or aerobic exercise. Cardio means exercise which gets blood pumping and provides more oxygen to your muscles. It can not only help improve physical health, but also your mental well being. Types of cardio exercise include:
- Cross training
- Elliptical training
In general, yoga is not a cardio exercise. However, it can help significantly with breathing and improve circulation by making your body more limber. Doing yoga exercise combined with cardio is ideal in trying to improve blood circulation through exercise.
It is not simply the exercise we undertake as part of a 'workout' which is important in helping us to maintain good cardio. There are many situations where our posture and sedentary behavior can lead to poor circulation. Many of us work tertiary jobs where we may have to sit at a computer for long periods of time. If this is the case then we need to ensure we get up at least every hour both to reduce eye strain and to ensure we have good circulation going.
When we get home from work, we need to limit the time we sit in front of the computer or TV. Make sure we get up and move about to stop our circulation from getting stagnant. This can be as simple as cooking dinner rather then getting take out or going for a walk after dinner to help digestion.
When travelling we run the risk of negatively affecting our blood circulation. On long haul flights there are regulations designed to ensure we don't get certain air pressure related blood vessels diseases such as deep vein thrombosis. This is a condition which often manifests itself in leg swelling and is potentially fatal. This is because blood clotting can block our arteries, moving up towards our heart and causing serious problems. Making sure you take regular walks up and down the cabin, rubbing our extremities and shifting our body weight are important. However, the same goes for long drives or even bus journeys. Unless we are lying down and sleeping, being immobile for too long can affect our blood circulation badly.
Apart from exercise, the most important way to improve your circulation is through diet. Eat foods which are nutritious and have a low glycemic index. These include fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as eating low fat dairy products, lean meats and whole grains. These foods should be the focus of your diet, helping to increase circulation and prevent heart problems.
It's not only eating good food which will help our cardiovascular system but also reducing our consumption of foods which are high in trans fats or saturated fats. Replace these with foods rich in essential fatty acids such as walnuts, salmon and avocado to improve blood flow. Meanwhile, always stay hydrated. This is a simple, yet fundamental way to benefit circulatory function.
Staying hydrated means sufficient amounts of water, but these aren't the only beverages which can help improve your circulatory system. There are many beneficial teas for circulation. These include matcha or green tea, horsetail, dandelion and many more. They have great antioxidant qualities and have a wide range of other benefits. If you want to find out more, read our article on beneficial teas for circulation.
One of the most important ways to improve blood circulation is to cut out the ways which are known to adversely affect it. These include:
- Quitting smoking: smoking has been known to clog and restrict blood vessels and can severely affect your cardiovascular health. This is not to mention many of the other myriad health risks smoking provides.
- Reducing alcohol intake: moderate alcohol consumption should be fine as part of a balanced diet In fact, there are reports that moderate drinking can help the fight against heart disease. However, drinking too much has the adverse effect and can affect our blood circulation.
- Reducing caffeine: like alcohol, moderate caffeine consumption from drinks such as coffee can be beneficial to our health, despite some incorrect sources saying otherwise. However, if you drink too much it can have negative effects. It is another consideration you should discuss with your doctor.
Other ways to improve blood circulation
If you are particularly at risk of poor blood circulation, your doctor will possibly recommend supplements. These are especially for those who struggle to get the right nutrients from diet alone. Nutritional supplements which benefit circulation include Vitamin C, B vitamins, Calcium, magnesium and omega-3 fish oil. It is also important to take into account the effectiveness of supplements of Vitamin E in reducing the risk of heart disease because it promotes blood circulation.
In addition to vitamin supplements, research has shown thatginkgo biloba increases circulation by dilating the veins and arteries and helps move blood platelets through the body.
If you regularly have cold hands or cold feet, especially when other people don't seem to be having the same sensations in the same environment, it could be a sign you have poor circulation. Some people wear special compression stockings on their hands and feet to help improve circulation.
Feel free to test all these basic techniques, improve blood circulation and help your body prevent heart disease or varicose veins, among others. Maintaining good health and well-being is essential to reach old age in the best possible condition as well as having a full and above all healthy life.
This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.
If you want to read similar articles to How to Improve Poor Blood Circulation, we recommend you visit our Diseases & secondary effects category.