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Blood circulation pumps oxygen and nutrients to the cells around your body. Good circulation is vital for good health, and the best way to improve it is to quit smoking, cut down alcohol consumption, exercise, and maintain a healthy diet.
Why Does Blood Circulation Matter?
There are few things more important to your health and wellbeing than good blood circulation.
The 60,000 miles of blood vessels tangled inside you help deliver over 5 litres of blood a minute to every corner of your body. That blood contains the oxygen and nutrients your cells and organs need to function while removing nasty waste products from your system.
And the benefits of proper circulation don’t end there. It also helps wounds heal faster, keeps your mind sharp and your heart healthy, and gives your skin a natural glow. On the flip side, poor circulation can result in numbness in your hands and feet, sluggishness, and even erectile dysfunction.
The good news is there are several ways to improve blood flow via simple diet & lifestyle changes, and in this article, we share six of them.
But first, how do you know you have poor blood circulation?
Causes and Signs of Poor Blood Circulation
Several serious health conditions can put a real strain on your body, reducing blood flow and, ultimately, causing poor circulation. These include diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Meanwhile, circulation problems can also arise if you suffer from the following:
- Varicose veins, which are enlarged, damaged veins most often found on the back of the legs. These veins can’t move blood as efficiently as healthy veins and can sometimes cause blood clots.
- Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a circulatory condition that causes your blood vessels and arteries to narrow, restricting blood flow.
- Raynaud’s disease, which causes the small arteries in your hands and toes to narrow, resulting in chronic cold hands and feet.
Here are some obvious signs your blood isn’t flowing around your body as freely as it should:
- When your arms and legs aren’t getting enough blood, your hands or feet can feel cold, numb, or tingly. You may also notice a blue tinge to your skin if you’re light-skinned.
- Beyond that, poor circulation can result in weak and brittle nails, dry skin, muscle cramps, and hair loss. Cuts, scrapes, and sores can also heal slower than normal.
- And given the vital role blood flow plays below the belt, getting and maintaining an erection can become difficult with poor circulation.
So, what can you do to guard against these symptoms and increase blood flow? Here are six diet & lifestyle improvements to put into action.
6 Ways to Boost Circulation
1. Get Your Body Moving
Alongside a variety of important health benefits, such as weight loss and lower blood pressure, regular exercise can help combat circulation issues. Working up even a small sweat gets your blood pumping, and the more you do over time, the stronger you’ll feel.
Cardiovascular exercise is particularly effective, and you don’t have to run for miles to benefit your circulatory system. Something as simple as an afternoon stroll is a surefire way to increase circulation.
2. Stay Hydrated
Getting enough fluid in your body every day is crucial for good circulation as it contributes to the overall volume of your blood.
According to the NHS, you should aim for six to eight glasses of fluid a day, such as water, lower-fat milk, or sugar-free drinks, like tea and coffee.
Drinking black or green tea can be particularly helpful if you’re faced with poor circulation, as the antioxidants found in those drinks can widen your blood vessels, helping blood flow more easily in the process.
3. Eat for Heart Health
Eating a heart-healthy diet, like the Mediterranean diet, is a great way to keep your ticker in tip-top shape. A strong heart is vital for good circulation, so make sure you’re loading your plate up with the following foods:
- Fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon, herring, tuna, or sardines (rich in omega-3 fatty acids);
- Fruits, such as avocados, bananas, blueberries, and blackberries;
- Veggies, such as sprouts, bell peppers, and spinach;
- Nuts and seeds, including flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts;
- Olive oil;
- And dark chocolate, which contains antioxidants called flavonoids (these help protect your body against toxins).
4. Get More Vitamin C & E
Sticking with your diet, making sure you’re getting enough vitamin C and vitamin E is vital.
A 2015 study found that a daily dose of 500mg of vitamin C improved blood flow in much the same way as walking. It’s believed that the vitamin helps keep the lining of the blood vessels healthy, improving blood flow. Similarly, vitamin E can help your blood vessels dilate (widen), allowing for healthy blood flow.
To add more vitamin C to your diet, put citrus fruits, orange juice, bell peppers, and broccoli on the menu. You could also take a daily multivitamin. And to get your fair share of vitamin E, make sure you’re eating plenty of nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils, such as sunflower oil.
5. Quit Smoking
No matter what sort of improvements you want to achieve health-wise, quitting smoking will always rank high on the agenda. Where poor circulation is concerned, it’s the nicotine found in cigarettes and e-cigarettes that’s the main culprit.
Nicotine harms the walls of your arteries while making your blood thicker, meaning it can’t flow as effortlessly around your body.
Quitting can be hard work, but in the end, it’s always worthwhile. Check in with the NHS for a range of services to help you stop.
6. Put Your Feet Up
Finally, quite literally putting your feet up at the end of a long day can help improve your circulation. Elevating your legs at or above heart levels moves blood to your upper body and stops it from pooling in the lower part of your legs and feet.
If you find you’re dealing with numb feet or varicose veins, you could also consider wearing compression socks. These tighter-than-usual socks put pressure on your feet, helping the blood vessels push blood back up the body towards your heart.
Help your body fight the good fight
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So, how to improve blood circulation? Well, like many things in life, good circulation comes from eating well and living right. Adopting a heart-healthy diet, lowering stress levels, and exercising regularly can go a long way towards improving your blood flow and overall cardiovascular health.
And if you’re experiencing the symptoms of poor circulation and you have any concerns, make sure you speak to your health care provider.
How do I tell if I have poor blood circulation?
The main signs that you have bad blood circulation include: numbness in the hands and feet, sluggishness, and erectile dysfunction.
Is blood circulation important?
Blood circulation is one of the important health factors. Maintaining good blood circulation allows your heart to pump more oxygen and nutrients around your body, promoting healthy cell regeneration.
What causes poor blood circulation?
Serious health conditions are often the cause of poor blood circulation. These conditions include diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
How do I improve my blood circulation?
You can improve your blood circulation by exercising more, quitting smoking, eating a healthy, balanced diet, relaxing, taking Vitamin C & E supplements.