What is Poor Circulation?
Circulatory system problems arise when there is limited blood flow to the legs, hands, heart and rest of the body, including the fingers, toes and feet. The blood vessels become blocked as a fatty substance called plaque builds up and hardens and constricts the walls of the arteries and veins. This interrupts the normal flow of blood through the vessels and results in poor circulation.
A variety of conditions can be brought on by poor circulation such as high blood pressure, hypertension, stroke, varicose veins, peripheral artery disease, heart disease, kidney damage, aneurysms, arteriosclerosis, Raynaud’s disease and phlebitis.
Poor Blood Circulation in Babies and Children
While adults tend to have the majority of circulation problems, babies and children can suffer from poor circulatory conditions as well. Since the heart is the primary organ in the circulatory system, responsible for pulmonary and systemic functioning, infants born with complex congenital heart defects are especially prone to experiencing difficulties.
Whether or not temporary or corrective surgical interventions were performed for this condition, any defect in normal blood flow can have a significant impact on a child’s physical and mental development, from growth to behavioral and academic performance.
Poor Circulation during Pregnancy
Many women experience circulation changes during the second and third trimesters, which tend to affect the legs and result in cramping. This is likely attributed to the added weight of the baby and subsequent stress of the leg muscles. Consult your doctor if you experience sudden redness, swelling, or warmth.
Stretching the legs before bed or before a long period of sitting such as on a plane can help ease common stiffness that leads to cramping. Try not to stay in one position for too long; get up to move around whenever possible. Regular exercise, including mild walking, can also help keep the blood flowing.
Some woman may also experience light-headedness, as blood pressure shifts naturally during pregnancy. Avoid sudden movements like sitting up too quickly, and while resting, lie on your side rather than your back. Extreme dizziness or prolonged light-headedness should be reported to your doctor.
The Effects of Poor Blood Circulation
Poor blood circulation can impact the entire body, including:
- Effects upon the brain – poor blood circulation can impact the brain causing fatigue, dizziness, memory loss, and frequent and unexplained headaches.
- Effects upon the heart – poor blood circulation can have an impact on the heart, causing inability to perform simple aerobic activities like climbing stairs without breathlessness; high blood pressure and cholesterol, and chest pain can be other symptoms. Heart attack and stroke are major risks of poor circulation that remains untreated.
- Effects upon the liver – symptoms of poor blood circulation in the liver can include lack of appetite or unexplained weight loss, and changes in skin tone.
- Effects upon the kidneys – poor circulation to the kidneys are typically the result when there is swelling of the hands, feet and ankles. Other symptoms can include fatigue, altered heart rate and rise in blood pressure.
- Effects upon the limbs – with poor circulation, cramps in the limbs, numbness and varicose veins can appear as symptoms.
What are the Symptoms of Poor Circulation?
Symptoms and signs of poor circulation may include:
- Numbness or loss of sensation or tingling in the hands, feet, or toes
- Changes in skin temperature (cold hands, feet, legs, and ears)
- Fatigue (Lack of or Low Energy)
- Hair Loss
- Vertigo or Dizziness
- Dry Skin
- Edema or Swelling in the feet, legs and/or fingers
- Varicose Veins, Leg Ulcers and Foot Ulcers
- Muscle Cramps and Pain
- Itching, especially Itchy Skin on Hands, Legs, or Feet
- Changes in the color of the skin (it becomes more pale, bluish, or reddish- also known as (cyanosis – an indication of inadequate oxygen delivery)
- Cramping in Legs, Buttocks or Feet During Activity
- Lower Leg Pain or Claudication
- Poor discernment of temperature and pain
- Skin breakdowns, Infection and sores do not heal as well as they should
- Shortness of Breath
- Irregular Heart Beats
- Sluggish memory
- Lack of stamina
Poor Circulation Pictures
What Causes Poor Circulation?
Circulatory system problems can be caused by certain medical conditions, lifestyle factors and behaviors. Other factors that contribute to circulatory system problems are tobacco smoking, alcohol consumption, caffeine, poor eating habits, insufficient exercise and sitting in a cramped position or no movement for long periods (also known as Economy Class Syndrome/DVT – deep vein thrombosis).
Medical Causes of Poor Circulation
Diagnosing Poor Circulation
The diagnosis will be based on the patient’s medical history, family history and lifestyle. The doctor has to determine the root cause of the circulatory disorder before administering treatment.
Treatments for Poor Circulation
Circulatory system problems can be treated with conventional medication, lifestyle changes as well as natural and alternative therapies. The primary objective is to prevent circulatory problems, relieve swelling, pain and speed healing. Mild cases of bad circulation usually require an aerobic exercise program, a healthy eating plan and a low dose of aspirin.
Treatment also involves making certain important adjustments to your lifestyle such as eating a high fiber and low fat diet, exercising regularly, losing weight and quitting smoking. Your doctor may prescribe medication to relieve the pain and swelling.
- Over-the-counter medication such as aspirin, analgesia and heparinoid creams
- Prescription medication such as pentoxifylline
- Surgical procedures such as angioplasty, atherectomy, revascularization and endarterectomy
- Vitamin B6 and B12, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, niacin, and magnesium.
- Physical therapy
- Circulation Socks
In addition to these treatment options, you would also have to revise your nutritional requirements by increasing your intake of water and eliminating refined foods such as caffeine, alcohol and sugar. Include low fat and high fiber in your diet to reduce cholesterol levels and improve circulation.
Natural and holistic treatments that include herbal and homeopathic remedies reduce symptoms effectively and address the overall health and wellbeing of the individual.
Natural remedies can stimulate circulation and at the same time improve your overall physical, emotional and mental health. Treatments like hydrotherapy, acupuncture, reflexology, aromatherapy and massage are also very therapeutic.
There are a number of herbal and homeopathic remedies that can be very effective in treating the underlying causes of poor circulation without the harmful side effects of some of the prescription drugs. These include herbs such as Ginkgo biloba, Zingiber officinalis and Rosmarinus officinale (Rosemary). Consult a homeopath or herbalist about advice on the treatment that suits your needs best. If you are already using prescription medication for circulatory problems, always consult your doctor before deciding to take any herbal remedies.
Tips for How to Deal with Poor Circulation
Some Useful Tips
There are various methods to prevent, treat and improve blood circulation and they include the following:
- Exercise regularly or participate in any physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day. Try walking, swimming, biking or aerobics to get the blood pumping.
- Eat a healthy, well balanced diet that is high in fiber and low in fat - this will ensure that your cholesterol levels remain in check.
- Incorporate supplements such as gingko biloba, cod liver oil, omega 3 fish oils and garlic to improve circulation.
- Quit smoking as this increases cholesterol, hardens the arteries and causes other blood vessels to constrict.
- Wear support socks or compression hosiery to improve low circulation.
- Take a warm bath or soak feet in warm water to increase the blood flow.
- Feet and other extremities should be kept warm by wearing thermal or woolen socks.
- Reduce stress through meditation, deep breathing exercises or listening to music.
- Keep swollen feet raised for short intervals to allow the blood to flow through and help the fluid to drain from the feet.
- Avoid staying inactive for long periods, keep moving to improve circulation (if you work in an office and spend most of the time seated, get up now and then to run an errand).
Foods to Improve Circulation
- Fruits and vegetables of any kind are good for your health, particularly oranges, which provide high levels of bioflavonoids to promote blood flow while also strengthening capillaries, as well as watermelon, a natural source of lycopene, which has been known to help prevent plaque buildup, a common hindrance to blood flow, to help promote healthy circulation.
- Nuts are rich in vitamin B3, which helps boost the blood.
- Garlic also helps promote circulation.
- Avoid saturated and trans fats, as well as sugary sodas or fruit drinks. This will help thin the blood so that it passes more easily through the small blood vessels.
Exercises for Poor Circulation
Regular physical activity is a great way to help improve circulation. If you are not already active, consult with your doctor first before starting any new program. Most people can begin with mild exercise and gradually advance to more rigorous activity. Walking, swimming, and biking are all good to get the blood pumping.
Go at a pace and intensity that you can still carry on a conversation without getting out of breath, but that provides enough of a challenge to suffice as a cardiovascular workout.