Poor circulation is a cardiovascular condition with symptoms initially felt in the extremities. If you’ve experienced symptoms like bouts of dizziness, unexplained leg or feet swelling, frequent cramps, skin discoloration, pain, numbness, tingling sensation on hands or feet, and erectile dysfunction, you may be suffering from this condition.
There is no need to panic at the onset of symptoms. Some of the best ways to improve blood circulation involve lifestyle changes with or without therapeutic drugs. Aside from consulting your doctor, getting a great education from reliable online sources is proactive and is a good practice.
Causes Of Poor Circulation
When you have good circulation, well-oxygenated blood is perfused in sufficient volumes to the organs, brought back to the lungs for cleaning, and finally to the heart for pumping through a network of blood vessels.
Any plaque or condition affecting blood flow can lead to poor circulation. In a nutshell, blood circulation results from the dynamics of blood volume, density, pressure, and resistance. Major cardiovascular factors that affect these are the following:
Hearts that have incurred damage will not contract properly, so the volume of blood pumped to the arteries is insufficient. A person diagnosed with ischemic heart disease or heart failure is usually symptomatic. Some causes are:
- Ischemic Heart Disease
- Peripheral Artery Disease
- Destruction of valve/s due to Streptococcal infection
- Plaque deposits from cholesterol and other debris
- Distended, poorly contracting vein and capillary walls
- Areas with infarcts
Ischemic heart disease is expected in the older population, but the incidence is rising among smokers, those who have a poor diet, and lack exercise. Heart disease is a leading cause of death globally. Poor circulation, one of its manifestations, is a wake-up call.
- Arterial and Venous Systems
Plaques at any point result in less blood reaching the end organs. This condition, called atherosclerosis the most common cause of poor circulation. In the venous system, poor contractility of the veins or the presence of varicosities slowing down the flow of blood to the heart may result in the swelling of the extremities.
- Capillary Network
Arteries and their tributaries meet with the venous components through a network of capillaries. As we age, capillaries weaken, and some fluid may leak through their thin walls. This is why the hands and feet of older people are swollen but may still improve with exercise and compression.
- Systemic Diseases
Systemic chronic diseases like hypertension, anemia, diabetes, and stroke contribute to poor circulation.
Ways To Improve The Circulation
There are many ways to improve circulation, and it should begin with determining if pharmacological drugs are needed.
- Medical Examination
The following point to medical intervention for heart disease, hypertension or diabetes:
- History of difficulty in breathing, especially during exertion,
- Angina or chest discomfort
- Fatty or high carbohydrate diet
- Family history of heart disease or diabetes
- Irregular pulse rate
The workup includes an electrocardiogram (ECG), X-ray, and laboratory works like lipid profile, average glucose (sugar), or fasting blood sugar. Statins, blood pressure lowering drugs, aspirin, or anti-diabetic may be prescribed depending on the results. Radiology studies may or may not show heart enlargement of calcified deposits on the arteries. The ECG may or may not reveal poor oxygenation or past ischemic events.
- Stop Smoking
Smoking affects many organs, with the heart, lungs, and circulatory system suffering the most from the constriction of the blood vessels, racing heartbeat, and elevated blood pressure. While reversing the damage may take years for a chronic smoker to undo, cessation has speedy effects.
An hour after the last cigarette, the heart can pump blood better and more fully per cycle. The following scenario may also happen:
- Blood pressure decreases
- Circulation improves
- Heart rate slows down
In a matter of 12 hours, levels of carbon monoxide, a gas that competes with oxygen when inhaled during smoking, drop, improving oxygen availability in the lungs.
One day after quitting, the chances of developing coronary artery disease decrease, and exercise becomes less tiring. Three days after, nicotine levels drop, and heart and lung capacity improve significantly within one month. Circulation continues to improve, and within a year, the risk of developing coronary artery disease is slashed by half.
- Weight Control With Diet And Exercise
Weight loss, especially around the belly fat, enables the blood vessels to expand when needed. Plaque formation reduces blood flow and increases the chances of stroke. Weight loss can be achieved with calorie restriction, limiting carbohydrates, and reducing fat in the diet.
Walking for 30 minutes improves circulation, helps keep the weight down, and reduces the risk of stroke by 20% and coronary artery disease by 30 to 40%. Those who want to vary their routine and find more ways to track progress can do so with fitness phone apps. These can help with achieving fitness goals by keeping you on track.
- Yoga And Other Stress Relievers
Yoga gives your muscles a gentle workout and improves breathing. More oxygen enters the lungs, so the blood filtered through it becomes better oxygenated. The ‘Downward Facing Dog’ pose strengthens the legs and improves circulation in the head.
‘The Warrior II’ pose is like a compression massage and improves circulation in the legs, while the ‘Triangle’ pose opens up the chest area and improves circulation in the lungs. The ‘Legs Up the Wall’ pose returns pooled blood, effectively reducing swelling.
- Other Ways To Improve Poor Circulation
Iron supplements and chlorophyll in green vegetables or oral supplements help boost hemoglobin levels. However, those with deficient levels should undergo a blood workup. Anemi can be due to vitamin deficiency or malabsorption states.
Light Therapy with red or near-infrared light helps those with peripheral artery disease, especially diabetes mellitus. Wearing compression stockings prevent blood from pooling and returns blood flow to the heart.
Improving poor circulation can be as simple as not smoking and adopting lifestyle changes. If there are pain, discoloration, and comorbidities, go for medical consultation for early diagnosis and prevention.