Your body’s circulation system is responsible for sending blood, oxygen, and nutrients throughout your body. When blood flow to a specific part of your body is reduced, you may experience the symptoms of poor circulation. Poor circulation is most common in your extremities, such as your legs and arms.
Causes of poor circulation
There are several different causes of poor circulation.
Peripheral artery disease
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) can lead to poor circulation in your legs. PAD is a circulatory condition that causes narrowing of the blood vessels and arteries. In an associated condition called atherosclerosis, arteries stiffen due to plaque buildup in the arteries and blood vessels. Both conditions decrease blood flow to your extremities and can result in pain.
You may think diabetes only affects your blood sugar, but it can also cause poor circulation in certain areas of your body. This includes cramping in your legs, as well as pain in your calves, thighs, or buttocks. This cramping may be especially bad when you’re physically active. People with advanced diabetes may have difficulty detecting the signs of poor circulation.
Carrying around extra pounds puts a burden on your body. If you’re overweight, sitting or standing for hours may lead to circulation problems. Being overweight or obese also puts you at an increased risk for many other causes of poor circulation, including varicose veins and blood vessel problems.
Over time, reduced blood flow in your extremities can cause:
• nerve damage
• tissue damage
Symptoms of poor circulation
The most common symptoms of poor circulation include:
• throbbing or stinging pain in your limbs
• muscle cramps
• Heavy ness
1. Muscle cramping
Back to those pesky muscle cramps. Did you know the leg cramps you experience may actually be due to varicose veins? When the veins cannot get blood flow out of the legs properly, the waste products from the cells are stuck as well.
As you walk or run throughout the day, do you notice your legs begin to feel heavy? Does it get worse throughout the day? Does it prevent you from wanting to participate in daily activities? If so, you may be among the millions of Americans experiencing one of the most common symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency or CVI! CVI is the disease process that leads to varicose veins.
Do you ever experience a feeling of numbness in your hands or feet? This can be due to a myriad of reasons both related to arterial or venous issues affecting your nerves. This numbness could be related to something as simple as magnesium or B-12 deficiency or could point to something more serious like a narrowing of the arteries due to diabetes. Numbness can be an early warning sign for things such as multiple sclerosis, thyroid issues, or even CVI, so be sure to have a conversation with your primary care physician for further guidance if you experience this symptom.
When you sit down to take your socks off at the end of the day, do you notice an indentation at your ankle or calf from your sock? Do you experience swelling in your feet, ankles, or legs consistently? While swelling can occur for many different reasons, it could also be related to your circulation. Speak with your primary care physician to determine if you should see a vascular or vein special.
Do you experience pain in your legs after walking for a few blocks? Does this pain get worse if you elevate your legs? Does it feel like it’s burning? If so, you may be experiencing peripheral artery disease and this pain is known as claudication. As your arteries narrow, oxygenated blood struggles to get to the cells as they need.
6. Loss of Appetite
Part of proper body function depends on the conditioning of the gastrointestinal tract. We require a good blood supply for the digestion and distribution of nutrients in our blood. A decrease in circulation leads to a lack of appetite and a slowdown of our metabolic rate.
7. Digestive Issues
Since our digestive tract requires good blood circulation, a problem with blood supply can lead to the improper processing of ingested food. As a result, it could lead to a host of digestive issues such as diarrhea, stomach pains, and nausea. It also causes a reduction of nutrients acquired.
8. Weak Immune System
Poor circulation can also weaken your immune system since your body cannot fight ailments without the appropriate nutrients. The immune system needs amino acids and minerals from a proper functioning digestive system, which can be hindered with poor circulation. Any open wounds will also be affected as the healing process will take longer.
Diagnosis of poor blood circulation calls for history of the problem, physical exam and some clinical tests to confirm the reason for poor blood circulation in a particular area.
• Family history
• History of existing problems like dizziness, memory loss, or other symptoms.
• Lifestyle of the individual.
• Check for any pain, swelling or itching skin
• Bluish coloring of the extremities (cyanosis)
• Wounds that do not heal easily
• Edema of hands and legs
Did you know that wearing compression stockings or socks daily can promote better circulation in your legs? The pressure from the stockings assists in reducing the size of the veins and pushes the venous flow up to your heart while you wear them. If you have varicose veins, the use of daily compression helps minimize soreness, tiredness, and swelling at the end of the day.
I don’t know about you, but I struggle to find the time to exercise! But, it is important that we make time for ourselves. Did you know 30 minutes of consistent elevated heart rate can actually decrease stress levels and increase focus? As we gain weight, it can put additional strain on our circulatory system as the heart tries to pump blood throughout the body.
Do you experience aching, heaviness, pain, restless legs, muscle cramps, or have varicose veins in your legs? If you do, visit a vein specialist! After a thorough visit, the provider will recommend a unique, specialized treatment plan based on your disease process and needs. This treatment plan can include one, or a combination of the following vein treatments outlined below.
How to improve poor blood circulation
• Vitamins like B6 and B12, niacin, Vitamin E, Vitamin C and magnesium
• Flavonoids as found in dark chocolate
• Cut on alcohol and smoking
• Avoid caffeine related products like coffee and tea.
• Garlic is a natural blood thinner
• Cayenne pepper improves metabolic rate and blood circulation
• Fish – Omega 3 fats
• Watermelons are rich in lycopene that eases the blood flow