Good blood circulation and blood flow are crucial for maintaining optimal health. Some people need to improve blood circulation because they’re having health problems such as mobility issues, brain fog or low energy due to poor blood circulation.
Why is it so important to improve blood circulation? We rely on our circulatory system to deliver crucial nutrients and oxygen to every part of the body. Healthy blood flow is also essential to keeping your organs functioning correctly, healing wounds, and maintaining your skin’s healthy-looking complexion.
Someone with healthy blood flow is going to be getting a healthy supply of oxygen and nutrients to their brain and body.
Healthy blood circulation and healthy blood flow are terms used interchangeably as blood circulation and blood flow are the same concept.
The human body is made up of a vast system of veins, arteries, and capillaries over 60,000 miles long. That’s enough to wrap around the entire globe twice. If this network of components contributing to your blood flow and blood circulation doesn’t work properly, you can suffer from a number of uncomfortable symptoms. Poor blood circulation can also lead to many health conditions.
Unfortunately, there are a number of factors which can contribute to poor blood flow. Everything from a sedentary lifestyle to weight gain, as well as certain medical conditions and heart problems, can impact your blood circulation. Here’s what you need to know about the importance of blood flow, and how to improve blood circulation:
Why is it Important to Improve Blood Circulation? The Dangers of Poor Blood Flow
Your circulatory system is responsible for moving nutrients, oxygen, and blood around the body, so muscles, cells, and organs can get a healthy supply of oxygen and nutrients, and continue to function optimally. Your circulation also affects your immune system response. Certain cells carried by the bloodstream are essential to fighting infection and ensuring various injuries and ailments can heal.
The most common symptoms of poor blood circulation tend to influence the extremities of your body, such as your fingers, toes, hands, and feet. Numbness and tingling in these areas indicate something might be restricting your natural blood flow.
Poor blood circulation can also cause very cold hands and feet, or noticeably colder than the rest of your body. Swelling (edema) can occur when poor blood circulation allows fluids to accumulate in specific places. This means that poor blood circulation can lead to swollen ankles or swollen feet, for example.
Furthermore, poor blood circulation can also lead to:
· Cognitive dysfunction: If you’re feeling less metally sharp, you may need to improve blood circulation in your body. Your brain needs an adequate supply of blood to function optimally. If your blood circulation is poor, you might struggle with memory problems, difficulty concentrating, or a consistent feeling of mental exhaustion and fatigue.
· Digestive problems: Our digestive systems also rely on good blood flow. If blood isn’t moving properly throughout your gut, you can experience abdominal pain, diarrhea, cramping, and constipation.
· Joint pain and muscle cramps: Poor blood circulation can gradually lead to pain in the legs, feet, arms, and hands. Your extremities may start to ache or throb. For instance, you may have noticed discomfort in your legs after sitting for long periods. If you improve blood circulation in your body, you may notice less muscle cramps, and less body pains.
· Ulcers: Poor blood circulation impacts the body’s ability to heal, which can lead to the development of ulcers. People on long periods of bed rest also suffer from sores caused by pooling or collecting blood.
What Causes Poor Blood Flow?
There are various factors which can contribute to poor blood flow or blood circulation issues. Some of these issues can be addressed easily. For instance, your blood circulation can suffer when you spend too much time sitting or lying down, as a sedentary lifestyle slows down blood circulation and slows your heart rate. Getting up and moving around regularly gets your blood pumping again.
If you have a sedentary job, you should set timers on your phone to remind yourself to get up and stretch every half hour, go for a quick walk, or do some yoga poses. You could even put on your favorite song and dance for a few minutes. If you want to improve blood circulation, you must not sit for several hours without taking movement breaks.
Aside from sitting too much and being too sedentary, blood flow issues can also be tied to more complex problems, such as:
· Atherosclerosis: Plaque buildup in blood vessels can narrow and harden your arteries, restricting blood flow. This can lead to serious problems over time, damaging your cognitive and physical abilities.
· Diabetes mellitus: Diabetes can also contribute to circulation problems and related conditions. High levels of blood glucose can damage the blood vessels and cause an increase in plaque. Diabetes may also lead to nerve damage and diabetic neuropathy, which also influences your body’s ability to circulate blood.
· Blood clots: Blood clots in a vessel restrict blood from flowing to specific organs or tissues. In severe cases, clots can block the flow of blood entirely, leading to embolisms, strokes, and heart attacks. Blood clots can occur anywhere in the body.
· Weight gain: Extra weight places significant pressure on your body and heart, making it harder to move blood around your circulatory system. It also increases your risk of blood pressure issues and blood clots.
· Raynaud’s disease: This is a specific condition affecting around 5% of the US population. Raynaud’s disease causes blood vessels to narrow, causing numbness, tingling, and coldness in the feet and hands.
· A generally inactive lifestyle: We’ve discussed how being too sedentary can cause poor blood circulation in your body. A generally inactive lifestyle also includes things like never walking to run errands and always driving, never taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and generally being lazy about moving.
· Smoking cigarettes: Nicotine in cigarettes can cause your blood vessels to become constricted. This narrowing of the blood vessels reduces the amount of blood flowing to your organs, and starts to decrease the amount of oxygen and nutrients your cells receive.
How to Improve Blood Circulation: 6 Easy Tips
There’s good news for people suffering from symptoms associated with poor blood circulation such as lethargy, trouble walking, swelling, or cold hands and feet. The good news is that there are a number of ways you can improve blood circulation, and start promoting healthier blood flow. Most of the best strategies to improve blood flow involve simply staying active, moving your body, and protecting your heart.
Below are 6 easy tips to improve blood circulation and feel healthier:
1. Try Dry Brushing
Dry brushing is a popular self-care strategy intended to improve skin health and stimulate the lymphatic system. It’s a form of Ayurvedic medicine which involves using a brush with coarse bristles to exfoliate and massage the skin.
Proponents of this practice believe dry brushing helps to exfoliate the skin by removing dry and dead skin cells, while also helping the body to release toxins. Because brushing your skin in specific circular motions helps to generate heat and lymphatic flow, it can also improve blood circulation.
To dry brush, you’ll need a simple natural fiber brush with a long handle. Start at your feet and gradually move up your body with wide, circular motions. Using different levels of pressure can also help to promote blood flow in areas where you have poor circulation.
2. Add Circulation-Boosting Foods to Your Diet
Adjusting your diet can potentially improve blood circulation in a number of ways. Switching out fatty and sugary foods for more whole, fresh produce can help you to lose weight, which reduces the risk of plaque buildup, and helps to fight against the side-effects of obesity which includes impacted blood circulation.
Eating plenty of healthy and nutritious fruits and vegetables can also assist with lowering your blood pressure, and can contribute to a healthier, stronger heart. A stronger heart muscle results in better blood flow.
Some specific kinds of healthy foods also have compounds and nutrients which contribute specifically to better blood flow. Pomegranate, for instance, is high in nitrates and polyphenol antioxidants. Nitrates are excellent for relaxing blood vessels and increasing blood flow. Studies have shown consuming pomegranate juice before weight training reduces muscle soreness, inflammation, and muscle damage during weight training, by assisting with better blood circulation.
Other great foods to try in order to help improve blood circulation include:
· Cayenne pepper: Cayenne pepper is rich in capsaicin, which promotes circulation by lowering your blood pressure, and stimulating the release of vasodilators such as nitric oxide. Research indicates that cayenne pepper can even reduce plaque buildup in arteries, which is another condition that worsens your blood flow.
· Beets: Beets are high in nitrates, which can be converted by the body into nitric oxide to relax blood vessels and increase blood flow. Beet supplements and beet juice have been proven to reduce blood pressure, clotting time, and blood vessel inflammation.
· Leafy greens: Spinach, kale, and collard greens are high in nitrates, crucial for improving circulation and dilating blood vessels. Studies show that consuming high-nitrate spinach can lead to significant improvements in blood flow and blood pressure.
3. Get More Exercise
One of the easiest ways to promote better blood flow is to exercise more often. The more active you are, the more your heart rate will increase, which strengthens your circulatory system and reduces the risk of blood flow problems.
Cardiovascular exercise is vital for a healthy and strong heart, which is something you need in order to be healthy and improve blood circulation.
Even simple exercises such as walking can make a huge difference to your wellbeing. Walking contracts the calf muscles and pushes blood back up towards the heart. Studies show small increases in the time you spend walking can improve your circulation significantly.
Check out this list of tips on how to get walking more and sitting less, which will improve blood circulation. If you don’t enjoy walking, virtually any kind of movement can help you get your blood flow back on track. Exercising creates a demand in your muscles for greater blood flow and more nutrients, which pushes your heart to work harder. The more you train your heart through cardio-based exercises, the more equipped it will be to keep your circulatory system working optimally.
You can even get some exercise into your routine when you’re sitting at your desk while you’re working. Try some ankle rotations while you’re sitting, by spinning your foot in one way for ten rotations, then the other to keep your blood pumping in your lower legs.
4. Take More Movement Breaks at Work
Finding the time to take breaks at work can certainly be easier said than done. However, small movement breaks provide a number of benefits for your heart and blood flow.
First, taking breaks at work where you can stand up and move around gets you into the habit of leaving your chair and rejuvenating your circulatory system. Your blood flow naturally slows when you’re sitting for too long, causing blood to pool in the legs, and prompting feelings of fatigue.
Taking movement breaks also helps to reduce your stress level. Significant amounts of stress can influence our body in a range of different ways. Heightened stress can cause a rise in your blood pressure, which puts additional stress on the walls of your arteries and veins. High blood pressure can negatively impact blood circulation in your body.
Stress can also prompt you to engage in actions which are problematic for your heart and circulation, such as smoking and binge eating. At the very least, try to take a break every hour where you can get up, stretch, and move around.
5. Be Cognizant of Your Hydration and Blood Sugar
Part of improving blood circulation is ensuring you have the right amount of certain substances in your blood. For instance, your blood needs a significant amount of moisture to continue circulating as normal. When you’re dehydrated, your blood retains more sodium, which can cause it to thicken, and place additional pressure on your circulatory system.
Drinking water regularly and staying hydrated will help to keep your entire body working as it’s supposed to, and should help facilitate the flow of nutrients throughout your body.
As tempting as it might be to top up your hydration levels with energy drinks and sugar-packed sodas, it’s best to stick to water when you can. Aim for 8 big glasses of water per day at minimum. Controlling your blood sugar level is also crucial to maintaining healthy circulation. Elevated glucose levels can damage the lining of your blood vessels and increase the chances of plaque forming throughout the body.
If you have diabetes, you’ll need to be extra cautious about ensuring your blood sugar levels remain balanced. Avoid any foods or drinks which could cause sudden peaks in glucose.
6. Try Compression Socks
The right accessories can help improve blood circulation. Compression socks and stockings help to prevent superficial veins in your legs from dilating when you’re standing or sitting for long periods of time. This can also reduce your risk of varicose veins and swelling.
Compression stockings also place increased pressure on the bottom of your legs, which can help to push blood back up towards your heart when you’re sitting for long periods of time. Wearing compression socks throughout the day can help to steadily squeeze blood up through your circulatory system.
If you have particularly severe blood flow issues, you can even get prescription-strength compression socks from your doctor to help improve blood circulation. Your doctor will explain how these special compression socks work and how often to wear them.
Supporting a Healthy Circulatory System
Healthy blood circulation is essential to maintaining optimal health. Fortunately, there are various ways you can help support a healthy and properly working circulatory system. One thing to keep in mind when using the tips to improve blood circulation listed in this article, is that some people may be genetically predisposed to have blood pressure issues, blood circulation problems, or heart problems.You can find out if you’re genetically at higher risk of certain heart problems by taking a CircleDNA test, which provides you with hundreds of reports about yourself, based on your unique DNA.
- How Does Blood Flow Through Your Body (Cleveland Clinic) https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/17059-how-does-blood-flow-through-your-body#:~:text=This%20vast%20system%20of%20blood,that%20makes%20it%20all%20possible.
- The Role of Inflammation and Immune Cells in Blood Flow Restriction Training Adaptation: A Review (Fabrício Eduardo Rossi, Marcelo Conrado de Freitas, Nelo Eidy Zanchi, Fábio Santos Lira & Jason M. Cholewa) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6189414/
- Cerebral Blood Flow and Cognitive Functioning in a Community-Based, Multi-Ethnic Cohort: The SABRE Study (Anna E. Leeuwis, Lorna A. Smith, Andrew Melbourne, Alun D. Hughes, Marcus Richards & Niels D. Prins et. al) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6154257/#:~:text=Introduction%3A%20Lower%20cerebral%20blood%20flow,to%20cognitive%20decline%20and%20dementia.
- What Is Vasculitis? (The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute) https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/vasculitis
- Pomegranate Supplementation Accelerates Recovery of Muscle Damage and Soreness and Inflammatory Markers after a Weightlifting Training Session (Achraf Ammar, Mouna Turki, Hamdi Chtourou,Omar Hammouda, Khaled Trabelsi & Choumous Kallel et. al) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5072630/
- Capsaicinoids Modulating Cardiometabolic Syndrome Risk Factors: Current Perspectives (Vijaya Juturu) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4893589/
- Effect of Spinach, a High Dietary Nitrate Source, on Arterial Stiffness and Related Hemodynamic Measures: A Randomized, Controlled Trial in Healthy Adults (Elena Jovanovski, Laura Bosco, Kashif Khan, Fei Au-Yeung, Hoang Ho & Andreea Zurbau et.al) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4525132/
- Walking – the first steps in cardiovascular disease prevention (Elaine M Murtagh, PhD, Marie H Murphy, PhD & Janne Boone-Heinonen, PhD) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3098122/
- Effects of preventive use of compression stockings for elderly with chronic venous insufficiency and swollen legs: a systematic review and meta-analysis (Kristin Thuve Dahm, Hilde Tinderholt Myrhaug, Hilde Strømme, Brynjar Fure & Kjetil Gundro Brurberg) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6407277/