7 Easy Solutions to Improve Blood Circulation in Legs and Feet
The heart and blood vessels comprise the circulatory system. The heart is the pump, and the blood vessels are the tubes that deliver oxygen, nutrients, and hormones to muscles, tissue, and cells. A healthy body is dependent on healthy blood circulation.
Are you concerned about insufficient blood flow to your lower extremities? Continue reading to learn why circulation impacts your feet and how to improve blood supply.
Why Good Blood Circulation in Legs and Feet Matters
The circulatory system is a vast network of blood vessels with unique roles. Adequate blood circulation delivers oxygen, nutrients, and fluids to all bodily systems and cells. Blood is also responsible for waste removal. Without proper blood flow, the body’s organs and cells suffer.
Arteries are larger vessels that take oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Veins are medium-sized blood vessels responsible for transporting the deoxygenated blood back to the heart to gather more oxygen and begin the process again. Veins also purify cells by removing waste and toxins.
Good circulation is imperative for the adequate function of the body. Since the veins in the legs and feet must fight against gravity, these vital vessels are the most susceptible to disease from poor circulation. Veins in the feet and legs must be healthy to prevent blood buildup and stagnation. Valves must close securely so blood efficiently moves uphill and in one direction.
The Relationship Between Venous Health and Blood Circulation
Venous health depends on adequate blood circulation, and blood circulation depends on venous health. Therefore, healthy veins and ample blood supply rely on each other. Efficient circulation hinges on the blood vessels having the following:
- Strong and flexible blood vessels
- Sealing vein valves
- Minimal plaque buildup
Weak vessels, ineffective valves, and veins with restricted blood flow strain the heart and stress the valves.
Common Symptoms of Poor Blood Circulation in the Lower Extremities
Poor blood circulation typically becomes apparent in the lower extremities. Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), or vein disease, is caused by venous hypertension, elevated pressure in the veins of the lower extremities. CVI is the culprit of many bothersome symptoms in the legs and feet that cause physical and psychological issues. Some common symptoms of vein disease include the following:
- Feet, ankle, and leg swelling (edema)
- Skin changes: discoloration, rash, thickening, and flaking
- Achy, tired, or “heavy” legs
- Pain or throbbing
- Itching and burning
- Muscle cramps
- Bulging, twisted veins (varicose veins)
- Spider veins
In severe situations, people experience painful sores, usually near the ankles. These sores are called venous ulcers. Remember that bleeding varicose veins are not normal. If you notice bleeding from your varicose vein, this is a medical emergency. Contact your provider immediately.
7 Solutions to Improve Blood Circulation
Generally, mild cases of vein disease do not demand medical interventions but only lifestyle modifications. Making a few changes in your daily routine may be just what the doctor ordered. Incorporate these seven tips and tricks to improve blood circulation and venous health.
Incorporate Regular Exercise into Your Routine
The circulatory system utilizes leg muscles as pumps to push blood and fluid back to the heart and distribute nutrients to the body. Exercise promotes muscular contractions and blood flow. It has been proven to prevent vein disease and blood clots, like deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
Many people cringe when they hear the word "exercise." However, getting the blood pumping doesn't have to be miserable. Walking, swimming, rowing, and skating are enjoyable, low-impact activities that improve blood flow without causing additional vascular pressure.
Walking improves venous health and helps prevent chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). It is simple, effective, and can be done while multitasking. To enhance enjoyment, include movement in your everyday workflow. For example, take a short walk during lunch or after work to unwind.
Swimming is the ultimate joint-friendly activity, incorporating strength, cardio, and flexibility. This activity promotes blood flow to the entire body while reducing stress on blood vessels and vein valves.
Spinning is growing in popularity. With stationary bikes, digital cycling classes, and all types of traditional bicycles, hitting the trails can happen from anywhere. Whatever equipment you use or wherever you spin, your heart, lungs, and veins will thank you.
Skating is more than just an activity for children. Skating improves circulation, especially in the legs and buttocks, the areas most susceptible to vein disease.
Aim to include approximately 30 minutes of low-impact activities in your weekly routine. Try to get at least three days of exercise each week to improve venous health.
Adopt a Balanced, Nutritious Diet
For improved blood circulation and venous health, adopt a balanced, nutrient-dense diet. Foods low in sugar, low in fat, and high in fiber promote venous health, decrease vascular inflammation, and prevent plaque buildup. Vascular plaque can cause peripheral artery disease (PAD) and DVTs.
An anti-inflammatory diet is not a specific diet regimen but rather a set of guidelines for health. Whole foods are the most nutrient-dense and often have the most anti-inflammatory properties. These foods help the vascular system and the rest of the body function to its maximum capacity. As you begin to eat a more balanced, nutritious diet, consider the following guiding principles:
- Minimize consumption of processed foods
- Prioritize eating whole foods
- Get most of your daily nutrients from fruits and vegetables
- Switch some meals from animal protein to plant-based proteins
Stay Hydrated: The Importance of Water
The body is 60 percent water; every cell depends on this life-giving compound. Yet, our busy lives cause us to forget to replenish the supply. Medical providers recommend consuming a minimum of 64 ounces daily.
Interestingly, well-hydrated adults are healthier and have fewer chronic conditions, including reduced rates of heart failure and other vascular diseases. Research at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) suggests adequate hydration slows aging and extends disease-free living.
Limit Alcohol and Avoid Smoking
Smoking and excess alcohol consumption negatively impact the heart and circulatory system. The chemicals inhaled during smoking cause a buildup of plaque in the arteries. This plaque build-up, called atherosclerosis, inhibits blood flow and damages blood vessels.
Alcohol in moderation is not a health concern. However, excessive alcohol intake increases the heart rate, raises blood pressure, and causes irregular heartbeats. For venous health, limit intake to no more than one alcoholic drink a day.
Elevate Your Legs Regularly
Elevating your legs to chest level, or slightly above, makes it easier for the body to circulate blood from the feet to the chest.
By reducing gravity’s pull, blood flows back to the heart more easily. This position also lessens swelling and decreases tightness in the feet and ankles. During rest, prop your feet and legs up on a pillow.
When you run a long distance or have a lengthy weight-lifting session, your legs can get tired and weak, so elevate your feet and legs afterward. Athletic activity over long periods makes the blood "pool" in your legs drain better, which will make the veins less swollen and increase your blood flow.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight benefits all the body's systems and organs. Weight alone is not a sufficient indicator of health. However, increased body fat is linked to high blood pressure and vein disease.
Providers define a healthy body mass index (BMI) as 18.5-24.9. An elevated BMI increases vascular pressure, which stretches the veins and inhibits circulation. This enlarging of the veins leads to compromised valves. To determine your BMI, talk to your provider.
If you have a BMI greater than 25, be encouraged. Small changes help lower cholesterol and reduce stress on leg veins.
Wear Compression Stockings
Compression stockings are simple, practical tools for improving blood flow and preventing varicose veins. With a correctly fitted compression hose, more pressure at the feet and ankles encourages blood to move back up the body. Wearing compression stockings has many benefits:
- Support vein walls
- Diminish valve overload
- Prevent pooling
- Relieve discomfort
- Decrease swelling
- Reduce venous inflammation
These benefits make compression therapy a reliable tool for preventing deep vein thrombosis and venous insufficiency.
The Role of a Vein Specialist in Improving Blood Circulation
Comprehensive, state-of-the-art vein care provides treatment at all seasons, circumstances, and stages of life. Due to venous hypertension, venous insufficiency is the cause of significant physical and psychological suffering. Risk factors include the following:
A board-certified vein specialist guides, advises, and monitors vascular health. Holistic and comprehensive vein physicians will find treatment options for you. Treatments range from lifestyle modifications to minimally invasive, in-office modalities.
Recap: The Importance of Good Blood Circulation in the Legs and Feet
Adequate and efficient blood circulation promotes long-term health and well-being. Legs and feet are most susceptible to vein disease. Incorporate these seven tips to promote venous health.
Are you suffering from poor circulation or varicose veins? With a commitment to clinical excellence and patient care, Center for Vein Restoration is the clinical leader in vein care.