What is circulation?
Great question! Most people I speak to have at least a little understanding of what circulation means.
I’ll ask you the same question that I ask many of my clients. When I say the word circulation what is it that you think of…?
Well done, you guessed right… BLOOD… LOL
Did you have to refer to the image before you guessed..? That’s completely OK if you did. However that’s where 50% of my family’s education on the subject stops. Unfortunately even less have a good understanding of poor blood circulation and how to identify it.
They usually have an idea that circulation pumps blood around the body. Also the other important thing they realize is that we need it. However, they don’t really grasp the true power, value and importance of the circulatory system. To our well being and health it’s everything.
Did you know that the heart beats up to 100,000 times a day? This means, by 85 years old that is over 3 Billion beats from your heat! Talk about power! There’s nothing else like it in existence…
The power output that is produced throughout our lifetime by that little red muscle is astonishing. The average human has approximately 60,000 miles (96,000 km) of blood vessels in their body which moves about 2000 gallons (7,500 litres) of blood per day.
Peripheral Artery Disease & Raynaud’s Phenomenon
A common cause of poor blood circulation is Peripheral artery disease (PAD) this is the narrowing of the arteries. This in turn, causes reduced blood flow. Due to this, the disease affects the lower limbs predominately as they are the farthest from your heart. Symptoms include pain walking or standing. This disease can also affect your heart with fatty deposits in arteries.
Symptoms for this disease can vary greatly, with some having no discomfort. With others, having extreme pain, however pain isn’t an indication of level of severity. Someone with no pain could be in far more trouble of cardiovascular disease and heart attack than someone with high pain.
This disease can be treated the same way we treat any poor circulatory symptom or condition. For more information on PAD click here.
Another form of circulatory condition is raynaud’s phenomenon or raynaud’s Syndrome. It is basically short term interruption of your blood flow. It predominately effects fingers and toes and you will see a change in colour to white and then blue, along with numbness and tingling of the limb. It can last a few minutes for a few hours. The body can’t stop heat loss due to vessel spasm / contracting which starves the tissue of blood. Again, we can treat raynauds with our remedies to improve circulation
The Circulatory system is part of the body’s transport system. It’s a very well known fact that humans can’t live without it.
Why does the heart have to beat so often to keep us alive? Well the simple answer is, that within our body we only have about 8 Pints (5 – 6 Litres) of blood. This is why we need to keep the blood moving, it’s to keep the blood oxygenated.
That’s why when someone cuts a major artery they need immediate medical attention, we don’t have a lot of it and blood loss can happen very quickly.
The exact definition of circulation is the continuous movement of blood through the heart and blood vessels, which are maintained chiefly by the action of the heart, and by which nutrients, oxygen, and internal secretions are carried to and wastes are carried from the body tissues.
As the definition states our circulatory system delivers oxygen and nutrients to every single part of our body right down to every single cell in the body which relies on the blood to get all its nutrients. This is vital for cell communication and health.
One thing I can tell you is that you can’t get circulation from a pill. however, if you want natural improvement in your blood flow, there are a range of remedies and vitamins that can help check out my article to improve your own circulation in your body.
Why’s our blood important?
If your blood isn’t flowing then you’re must be dead… That’s why it’s important.
What every needs is an understanding of what and why the body needs blood flow in order to survive. Also, ensuring we maintain good blood vessel health is extremely important to our well being.
The blood is one of our body’s system of transport. This comprises of waste removal and immunity defense mechanism. It directly links to the lymphatic system which is the body’s drainage system. So, when blood flow is impacted it can affect other organs and body systems that play a large role in our overall health. With poor blood flow our lymphatic system slows down, which means we don’t get waste and toxins removed from the body. What this means, is that there becomes a build up of toxins and waste is absorbed into cell tissues and organs which causes problems.
When it’s flowing freely it’s great, when it backs up and not working efficiently… TROUBLE! Also, any toxins not getting filtered properly are offloaded onto other organs as mentioned above… This causes Major TROUBLE! This means that the liver can’t effectively clear up the toxins, and the kidneys which are designed to filter a few hundred Pints of blood a day isn’t efficient and can cause the onset of kidney disease.
Is it just a problem for later in life
Most people don’t think of having poor circulation until later in life, the reality is what we when we are younger can greatly impact our circulation later in life. Naturally our blood flow slows down with age.
When we’re 25, it takes approximately 30 seconds for blood to do a complete lap around the body. But, when we’re 75 + it can take 90 + seconds. The older we get the slower we get. This is why we get cardiovascular diseases and conditions later in life. This means that we need to take greater steps towards ensuring our body health is a priority.
Just because it slows down naturally with age doesn’t mean there’s nothing that can be done. The worst thing is that some people just say… Well it comes with age…
Yes you probably won’t be doing the splits or cartwheels anytime soon. However don’t take the defeated approach. You’re getting older, you’re not dead yet! There’s always time to reverse effects and damage done to our body’s systems. Our body is resilient and sometimes just needs some assistance to push it towards the right direction. That’s what I’m here to help you with!
Top 10 Common causes for poor circulation
What actually causes poor circulation? Aside from the above mentioned side effect of getting older…
There are a range of common causes that impact our body’s systems. Some obvious and some not so obvious.
The following causes affect each of us differently. It’s up to you to determine the severity of your symptoms.
Starting off with a doozy!
Diabetes affects millions of people each year, Through both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Both are chronic diseases, and they are both different.
Type 1 diabetes is when the persons body doesn’t produce insulin. Basically, what happens is that the body’s immune system attacks healthy insulin producing beta cells. Once those beta cells are destroyed the body can no longer produce insulin.
Type 2 diabetes is when people don’t respond to insulin they way they should. Also, later on with this disease the body often will not produce enough insulin. Like a broken car engine.
This condition has an enormous effect on our blood flow. Each year there are approximately 80,000 amputations in the US alone. These are just the lower extremities that aren’t related to trauma. 85% of these amputations occurred after leg / foot ulcers. This is a direct correlation to a diabetic complication and poor circulation. To make matters worse over 60% of these are preventable should they have received proper care and treatment.
That’s over 130 preventable amputations per day. If that didn’t scare you I don’t know what will!
So if you have diabetes a you might want to check out the top 10 circulation booster article.
Our blood is made up of over 80% water. Water is an important component in the function of our bodily functions, both muscle and tissue along with cells being comprised of this precious resource.
Dehydration decreases the water content in the blood. This makes the blood more viscous and puts more pressure on the cardiovascular system. I don’t know about you but the majority of people I see do not drink enough water. Hydrate to stay healthy.
Being inactive isn’t great for our overall cardiovascular health. We need to be active to maintain a healthy lifestyle, remaining seated and having a sedentary life can start to put more pressure on your system.
It’s proven that the more inactive we are the more overweight we are. Being overweight increases blood pressure, decreases circulation and places a large load on the heart.
There are many ways to remain active, from vigorous through to lower impact activities. We have a free e-book which gives some tips about some of the best circulation boosting exercise.
Nutrient and Vitamin Deficient
Calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin C and Magnesium are just some of the nutrients that many are deficient in. This causes an imbalance in the body and affects the speed and efficiency that the blood can flow through the vessels. Very easy way to improve this is to add some natural supplements into your daily healthy regime along with exercise and healthy eating. Just focusing on these simple 3 things will dramatically improve your circulatory function and energy levels.
Lymphatic system stagnation
Now this one is often overlooked. The lymphatic system works in conjunction with the circulatory system. However it doesn’t have a pump like the blood has the heart. The lymphatic system is the body’s drainage system. It helps the body’s defense mechanism rid the body of waste.
This system works by muscle movement, so the less you move the less efficient the system becomes. This can impair the body’s ability to deliver fresh blood to the muscles and tissues. It also impairs the ability to transport used blood back to the heart to be refreshed.
With the lymphatic system the less you move the worse you get. And the less you move the worst you get… Catch 22! Swelling in the legs is a common of lymphatic system issues or lymphedema.
Inflammation can make the blood thicker. This makes it harder to transport blood to the different parts of the body. Also, inflammation can start to cause plague to form inside of the arteries. This can cause blockages and decreases the effectiveness of the blood flow.
Anti-inflammatory pills and creams just treat the symptom and don’t focus on the cause of the problem. By increasing blood flow and getting more oxygen and nutrients to the area will start to alleviate the inflammation. This, along with the lymphatic system improving will start to remove inflamatory pain and toxins that have built up in the body.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure or Hypertension is both cause and symptom of blood circulation issues. The thicker the blood or the narrower the arteries the greater the pressure placed on the heart. As a result, It makes it harder to pump blood around the body. Due to this, the two effects are both long term cardiovascular issues as well as poor circulation problems.
There are certain medication that can cause poor circulation. The most common are the Beta Blocker class of drug.
These medications slow down the heart to decrease the blood pressure. however, if the blood pressure is high due to poor circulation then beta blockers can then effect the circulation even more. They do this by stopping much needed oxygen and nutrients to get the body’s tissues and cells.
A varied diet can provide a good mix of nutrients and minerals
Diet and nutrition is just as important now as it has ever been. We are what we eat, you focusing on a healthy diet that’s varied with proteins, fats and carbs. You should limit processed ford as much as possible, and provide your body with the right nutrients. This allows it to function correctly. Poor diet can impact the body’s function which includes the circulatory system.
Cholesterol can be the result of underlying inflammation. However, cholesterol and poor blood circulation are words that go hand in hand together. Make sure you keep your cholesterol in check naturally rather than artificially taking cholesterol tablets.
Fix the cause not the symptom, so if your cholesterol is brought on by poor diet. You should look at making a change your diet.
These are just the main common causes that can bring on poor circulation. With age we get calcification of joints and also plaque built up in arteries. We need to constently focus on ways we can improve our health and wellbeing. Prevention is the best cure.
What are the top 10 symptoms for poor circulation?
This person has poor circulation in their feet
As we have already addressed, circulation is important. Now, you need to be aware of some symptoms that could be a sign you have circulation problems.
Cold fingers and feet / numbness in hands / feet
While having cold fingers and toes is not uncommon. You need to be aware that this can sometimes be a symptom of something more serious. especially if it’s coupled with numbness or tingling. You may also see a slight blue or white tinge to the skin. Your extremities get affected first as they are the fartherest from our main pump (heart).
The brain is less than 2% of our body’s weight. However, can use up to 25 – 30% of our body’s oxygen! As circulation decreases the brain gets less oxygen and can sometimes lead to foggy thinking, memory issues and can even affect speaking. Lack of oxygen can cause inflammation in joints and your brain. My personal opinion is that by increasing oxygen / circulation to our body we can help with many brain related illnesses.
Poor circulation can reduce blood flow to the digestive system and can cause irregular appetite. Along with smaller, infrequent bowel movements and constipation. Also, look out for sudden changes in hunger and bowel movements as this too can signal a circulatory issue.
Decreased Muscle strength
Poor circulation starves muscles of oxygen and nutrients. This will cause them to function at a slower rate and can lead to muscle cramps and painful twinges or stiffness in the calf or foot muscles. Also, decreased blood flow can result in faster muscle deterioration.
A common symptom of poor circulation is leg cramps or night cramps. These are painful and can often wake you up – these can be a combination of low magnesium and potassium in your body along with poor circulation. By not getting oxygenated blood flowing efficiently to your muscles and tissues you can affect your overall muscle health.
Diabetes affects your blood sugar. The scary thing about diabetes is that many people believe their medication magically reverses the underlying cause. This isn’t the case, medication artificially lowers blood sugar levels however doesn’t treat the cause – this can be swelling in the legs (edema), poor circulation, poor lymphatic drainage, cramps, diabetic neuropathy (numbness / reduced sensation in the extremities) which then makes it harder for balance and overall mobility.
When we have poor diets and are overweight this in turn puts increased pressure on our body’s central nervous and circulatory systems. Due to this, you become at risk of other poor circulatory problems such as various veins, and blood vessel problems. Control this with a varied diet and you will thank yourself. Obesity is the number 1 contributor to type 2 diabetes.
Dry / flaky skin or dandruff
Your largest organ is your skin, if your circulation isn’t efficient your skin cells aren’t getting the required nutrients and oxygen so it can become dry, thin and flaky.
Weakened immune system
Feeling sick all the time or just always under the weather? You could be having the impact of poor circulation on the immune system. As we have mentioned circulation transports oxygen and nutrients via the blood this helps to support a health immune system. If you feel lethargic all the time you could have weakened immune system do to poor blood and oxygen flow in your body.
Swelling in the legs / Edema
When we have poor circulation this is often coupled with decreased efficiency of our lymphatic system. This causes waste to build up through fluid and not be flushed out of our body. As we mentioned, the lymphatic system is the body’s drainage system. It’s job is to remove waste. Think of it like a garbage truck going around your suburb picking up the rubbish. What would happen if your local garbo went on strike? waste would pile up. This is what’s happening when your lymphatic system & circulation isn’t functioning well. Waste and toxins build up in your body… Not Good!
What if I don’t address this issue?
Firstly I should say that if you have some of these symptoms you should definitely address the issue. You might want to read our post on the top how to improve circulation here.
Having poor circulation is extremely common, and not everyone seeks the right treatments. As I mentioned you cannot get circulation out of a pill, so if your doctor gives you something and that’s it then you should seek a second opinion. Circulation issues can lead to many health concerns and diseases along with amputations.
What can I do to increase my circulation?
If you have gotten this far, I’m proud of you. You aren’t taking having poor circulation lightly and want to resolve the issue. There are a number of ways you can improve your circulation in your body and increase the flow of your blood.
I just want to put a disclaimer that there isn’t a 1 trick fix there a multiple of things you can implement to give yourself the best opportunity to improve your circulatory system. By adopting these changes you will greatly improve your circulation and decrease your symptoms and more importantly improve you health for the future.
Now let’s look at some of the associated foods we can start to include in our diets that will help with our overall blood health.
Top 10 circulation Super Foods
What sort of foods should you be eating to improve your circulation? That’s a common question especially with all the different opinions out there… However I’m here to go through what I believe are the top 10 super foods that will kick start your blood circulation!
Now let’s get to it.
Cayenne Pepper promotes blood vessel health. It helps to strengthen the arteries and blood vessels. It has been used for thousands of years in Aztec medicines. The medicinal component of this chili is called capsaicin, which is the component that stimulates the body and has a healing property to it. Cayenne is known to help with heart related diseases and alleviate some hypertension
Ginger helps decrease the blood pressure which helps with the effectiveness of the circulation system.
Ginger has been uses in Indian and Chinese medicines for many years and by ensuring you are getting enough ginger you are supplying your body with a lot of help regarding hypertension.
Oranges have a good concentration of vitamin c which helps to break down plaque within arteries and blood vessels. This is an important point, as we age plaque builds up and narrows arteries and vessels. This decreases our blood flow and also can cause problems such as hypertension. Due to this, the doctor quite often will place you on blood pressure tablets. This can be dangerous, if your circulation is already bad and then you take blood pressure tablets which decrease your heart rate, this can give you vertigo and dizzy spells.
Another food that helps to cleanse the blood! Garlic, helps to clear out plaque within the arteries and stimulate good cell health. By assisting with lowering blood pressure it falls high on the heart health checklist.
The component cocoa found in higher levels in dark chocolate than milk chocolate is the component that assists with the improvement of your circulatory system. When selecting the chocolate ensure that you select one with 75% + in cocoa. This will ensure you get the maximum benefit. Cocoa is clinically proven to assist with cell widening which dramatically assists with blood flow in the body.
Gingko Bilbao or (maiden hair) is a tree that’s native to china. It contains an enormous amount of antioxidants, helps reduce inflammation, dilates blood capillaries which helps with blood flow and reduces symptoms of dementia. This super food can be taken as a supplement which is the easiest way to get it into your system to reap the benefits.
The component within watermelon which we are focusing on is lycopene. Lycopene has properties that have been proven to improve circulation through its stimulating effect on blood vessels. It also has a high level of vitamin A and Vitamin C which helps with blood health. Watermelon is 92% water so it also ticks the box for hydration.
Pumpkin Seeds / Sunflower Seeds
Pumpkin and sunflower seeds may be small, however they are jam packed full of nutrients!
Being high in magnesium and antioxidants allow your body to get an immediate boost of high value packed, blood flow increasing nutrients.
Green tea promotes cardiovascular health through its many help benefits. By promoting blood vessel and artery health you can stop the narrowing of the vessels and also ensure better blood flow through your body.
Blackberries do many things from cancer fighting properties to high levels of antioxidants to strong levels of vitamin k for blood flow. These berries are in the top echelon for providing your body with the nutrients it needs to maintain good blood health.