Although you may not think a lot about your circulation, you won’t be able to ignore the side effects of poor blood flow once it happens.
You hear a lot about poor circulation causing varicose veins and other vein diseases. But what does it mean to have poor circulation?
Poor circulation occurs when the blood flow through your veins and arteries is blocked or slowed. When blood flow is obstructed and cannot nourish your organs and tissues with oxygen-filled blood, various symptoms will arise, most notably in your legs and arms. Understanding the causes of poor circulation will help you determine the best lifestyle changes to increase healthy blood flow.
What causes poor circulation?
Poor blood flow can be attributed to several chronic medical conditions. In general, the symptoms of poor circulation include tingling, numbness, cramping, and pain in your limbs. Each of the conditions described below may also cause other side effects.
Varicose Veins. Varicose veins fall within the category of venous insufficiency disorders. Specifically, varicose veins result from weakened valves in the leg veins that cause blood to backflow and pool. As the blood collects within the veins, a protruding varicose vein forms near the skin’s surface. Swelling and pain are two of the most common varicose veins symptoms. More severe symptoms include skin changes and open sores.
Peripheral Artery Disease. Peripheral artery disease (PAD) refers to a plaque buildup in the blood vessels and arteries in the legs. As the arteries narrow, blood flow decreases, causing pain, numbness, tingling, and nerve damage.
Diabetes. A high blood sugar level affects your blood vessels and heart. Cramping in the legs after being physically active is a prominent sign of diabetes. Those with diabetes may also suffer from diabetic neuropathy, persistent numbness or inability to feel pain in the extremities.
Blood Clots. Another example of poor circulation is a blood clot. As your blood flow slows, blood cells cluster and form a clot. A deep vein thrombosis (DVT) clot forms in the legs and causes the skin to feel warm, swollen, and tender. If the clot breaks away and lodges in the lung or heart, it could cause a life-threatening pulmonary embolism or heart attack. Immediate treatment is recommended.
High Blood Pressure. As blood pressure rises, your blood vessels feel the intense force. This heightened pressure can damage the veins and arteries, leading to sluggish circulation.
Five ways to increase blood flow
Increasing your blood flow starts with properly treating the underlying cause. If you have diabetes, for instance, taking your medications and limiting your sugar intake can boost circulation and reduce symptoms. If you have varicose veins, undergoing treatment can improve healthy blood flow as well.
Other general tips for improving your circulation at home include:
Moving Around. Your veins need your help in pumping blood. A brisk 30-minute walk engages your calf muscles to push the blood towards the heart. Other beneficial exercises include swimming and biking.
Hydrate. Since your blood consists primarily of water, drinking at least eight to 12 glasses of water each day will promote blood flow through your veins. Water also keeps your blood pressure in check. To ensure you’re properly hydrated, you can also reduce caffeine consumption.
Prop Up Your Legs. Want to get the blood flowing in the right direction? Prop your legs on a pillow for 15 minutes to help the blood fight against gravity.
Stretch Your Muscles. Stiff muscles tend to hamper circulation. By stretching your muscles regularly, you can help increase blood flow to the veins and muscles.
Wear Compression Stockings. Compression stockings apply gentle pressure on the leg veins and encourage healthy blood flow. Wearing compression stockings is recommended if you are on a long plane ride or work at a job where you sit or stand all day.
It’s never too early to start taking care of your veins
Healthy veins and circulation are essential to your overall health. If you notice any symptoms of poor circulation, reach out to one of our two Center for Vein Restoration (CVR) facilities in Alaska.
Dr. Don Ives, MD, DABVLM, RPVI, RVT, is a highly-experienced CVR physician. He is a member of the American Venous and Lymphatic Society, the Alaska Academy of Family Practice, and the American Academy of Family Practice. He is also a Diplomate of the American Board of Venous and Lymphatic Medicine. With his extensive experience in treating vascular disorders, Dr. Ives can diagnose and create a personalized treatment plan for you using the latest proven methods.
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2550 Denali Street, Suite 1307
Anchorage, Alaska 99503
1626 30th Avenue, Suite 203
Fairbanks, Alaska 99701