Poor Circulation: Possible Causes, Symptoms, and What You Can Do About It
The human body is a complex machine that relies on a multitude of delicate systems and processes that work in syncrony to ensure optimal health.
One of the most important of these systems is the circulatory system.
Your circulatory system is comprised of your heart, blood vessels, blood, lymphatic vessels, and lymph. Together these organs work to transport oxygen and nutrients to every tissue in your body while simultaneously aiding in the maintenance of pH balance and removal of toxic waste products.
Every organ system in your body relies heavily on adequate blood flow, hence why care and maintenance of your circulatory system is critical for almost all aspects of your health.
Here we’ll review some common causes and symptoms of poor circulation, plus a few simple lifestyle tips you can use to support healthy blood flow.
Symptoms and Causes of Impaired Circulation
Adequate blood flow is important for keeping all of your body’s tissues and organs oxygenated and well-nourished, but poor circulation doesn’t typically occur all on it’s own.
Instead, it is usually a secondary complication related to other medical conditions such as:
- Atherosclerosis (buildup of plaque in arterial walls)
- Peripheral vascular disease
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Blood clots
- Kidney disease
- Tobacco use
- Reynaud’s disease
Some common signs and symptoms of impaired blood flow or poor circulatory function may include:
- Cold feet and hands
- Tingly fingers, toes, and other extremities
- Muscle cramps
- Pain or feeling of “pins and needles” in your extremities
- Numbness or loss of sensation/feeling, especially in your feet and toes
- Cognitive impairments
If left untreated, impaired blood flow can contribute to very serious complications including organ failure, strokes, brain damage, tissue death, and limb amputations.
Lifestyle Tips for Improving Circulation and Blood Flow
If you suspect that you’re experiencing poor circulation or impaired blood flow, it is of utmost importance that you consult with a qualified healthcare provider to address the root cause of your symptoms.
Because of the potential seriousness of the condition, you don’t want to start self-treating without fully exploring the reasons why your body is having difficulty maintaining blood flow. Certain interventions could do more harm than good, even if they seem safe — so talk to your doctor first!
That said, there are a variety of simple lifestyle approaches that are safe for most people to utilize in an effort to naturally support healthy circulatory function and prevent complications associated with suboptimal blood flow.
Eat Lots Of Plants
You’ve been told to eat your fruits and vegetables for as long as you can remember, and it remains one of the most timeless nutrition recommendations.
Eating plenty of whole, plant-based foods can play a major role in supporting heart health and circulation in a number of ways including reducing oxidative stress¹, lowering blood pressure², promoting relaxation of blood vessels², and reducing plaque accumulation in arterial walls³.
If eating a more plant-forward diet is new for you, start by setting small goals and remember — no goal is too small.
Some simple goals to consider may include:
- Fill half of your plate with vegetables for at least two meals per day, 3 times per week.
- Eat 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
- Try one new vegetarian recipe each week for a month.
Exercise or movement of any kind can contribute to improved blood flow — and you get bonus points if you can get your heart rate up while you’re at it.
When you add exercise to your routine, your heart muscle becomes stronger so it can pump oxygen and nutrient-rich blood more efficiently which ultimately leads to improved circulation.
The best part is it that doesn’t take very much effort to obtain these benefits.
The American Heart Association recommends just 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day, for at least 5 days per week⁴. You can even break up the 30 minutes into 10-minute increments throughout the day if that works best for you.
Maintain A Healthy Weight
Losing weight can seem like a daunting task, especially if you feel like you have a long way to go before reaching your “ideal” weight. But don’t get caught up in the aesthetics of it all. Instead, work to recognize that small changes can make a really big difference when it comes to improving your heart and circulatory health.
In fact, reducing your body weight by just 5-10% can lead to significant improvements in blood pressure and blood flow⁵.
As much as everyone would love a quick-fix for weight loss, there is no magic formula. The science behind weight management is complex and a method that works for one person may not work for someone else. Thus, it’s important to make sure you’re setting small, measurable goals that you can sustain on a long-term basis while meeting all of your body’s unique needs.