Do you find that your hands and feet are freezing cold – even during summer or in rooms where everyone else is warm? Perhaps you have a job where you’re on your feet most of the day and you’re starting to notice spider veins forming on your lower legs. If this sounds like you, poor blood circulation is most likely the problem.
Don’t worry, there are lots of ways to improve the situation without resorting to prescription drugs (in severe cases, however, there’s no escaping them). Small lifestyle changes can have a big impact on your health – there’s no excuse not to try these 9 tips to improve your blood circulation naturally.
What Is Blood Circulation?
Much like breathing, blood circulation is a vital bodily function that usually works perfectly without us even noticing. Our blood is a transport system – it travels through vessels to deliver nutrients and oxygen to every part of our body. The heart is the engine – pumping blood from head to toe and everywhere inbetween.
What Causes Poor Blood Circulation?
Many factors can result in poor circulation. With age, our blood vessels lose some elasticity, making flow more difficult. A poor diet causes buildup of residue on the interior of your blood vessels, obstructing movement and eventually blocking off the vessel completely. Being overweight and smoking also put extra stress on our circulatory system. (source)
If you are on your feet all day or sitting without moving much, this also hinders flow. Gravity causes blood to accumulate in your lower body, depriving other systems of oxygen and nutrients. Finally, there are some more serious conditions which cause poor circulation such as high or low blood pressure, heart problems, and varicose veins. (source)
What Are the Symptoms of Poor Blood Circulation?
How do you know if you have poor blood circulation? Most of the symptoms of poor circulation are related to a lack of blood flow to a specific region – usually your extremities. The most common symptoms are:
- Cold hands and feet
- Leg swelling
- Pins and needles
- Spider veins
9 Tips To Improve Your Blood Circulation Naturally
1. Exercise Regularly
A great way to give your circulation a little push is to exercise. I’m sure you’re familiar with the feeling of your heart “pounding” while working out. Well, this is exactly the effect we want when it comes to improving blood circulation.
Exercise makes your heart pump harder, pushing blood to all parts of your body. The movement of your muscles also squeezes and releases your vessels, helping blood to move. Aim to get around 30 minutes of exercise a day. (source)
2. Improve Your Diet
A poor diet is one of the main causes for poor blood circulation. If your diet is high in fat, sugar and salt, a substance called “plaque” will start to appear on the interior of your blood vessels. This makes it harder for blood to flow and eventually your vessels can block completely leading to heart attack and stroke.
A heart healthy diet includes lots of fibre (fruit, veg, whole grains), lean meats and omega-3 fatty acids i.e. fish oils. Omega-3 fatty acids help remove the plaque from your vessels. You can take a supplement or get it in your diet via foods like mackerel and sardines. (source)
Antioxidant vitamins such as A, C and E also prevent plaque deposits. Make sure your diet includes egg yolks, liver, citrus fruits, avocados, almonds, tuna and sunflower oil. (source) The Mediterranean diet is a good plan to start with.
When you massage an area, you stimulate blood flow to the region. You don’t have to go to an expensive spa for this, it’s easy to do at home, especially for trouble areas like the lower legs.
You can use your hands and massage essential oils such as rosemary, cypress, ginger and peppermint, diluted with a carrier oil. Personally, I use a foam roller. It takes less effort and feels SO GOOD. (source)
4. Natural Remedies
There are numerous herbal and natural remedies on the market that claim to improve circulation. Perhaps best of all is ginkgo biloba. Ginkgo has been found to open up blood vessels, allowing blood to flow more smoothly. You can take it as a tablet, or my personal favourite is as a tea with a spoon of honey. (source)
Other helpful remedies to improve your blood circulation naturally are cayenne, garlic and ginger. These are easy to add to your diet or can be taken as a pill. (source)
5. Elevate Your Legs
Another way to give your circulatory system a helping hand is to lie down with your feet raised above your heart for around 15 minutes a day. Gravity will do its job to prevent blood build up in your lower legs. I do this before bed most nights. (source)
6. Drink Water
If you are dehydrated, you will start to notice the symptoms of poor blood circulation as the volume of your blood reduces. Dizziness and fainting occur due to reduced blood supply to your brain – you definitely want to avoid this!
Have a bottle of water to hand and take a drink whenever you feel even slightly thirsty. Consuming water during and after exercise is vital too, as we lose liquid from sweating. Stay away from caffeine and alcohol, as both have a dehydrating effect. (source)
7. Wear Compression Stockings
If you’re at risk of poor circulation from being on your feet all day, I highly recommend getting fitted for compression stockings. They work by helping your legs push blood back up to your heart. You can buy them at most pharmacies – the staff will be able to make the best recommendations for you.
8. Stop Smoking
Of course there are hundreds of reasons to stop smoking, but in this case we’re interested in the effect it has on your blood circulation. Smoking causes your vessels to tighten and close up, making it very hard for blood to flow. The good news is that this effect can be reversed within hours of quitting. (source)
9. Hot and Cold Water Treatment
One of the ways your body regulates temperature is through your blood vessels. Your blood carries heat from your core outwards and if you’re too hot, your vessels will relax and release heat through your skin.
This is the mechanism utilized in so-called “hot and cold treatments”. Apply alternating hot and cold water to the body part experiencing symptoms of poor circulation. This will tighten and relax your vessels, pushing blood through. You can repeat this 5-6 times, however, avoid temperatures that are too extreme. (source)
When to See a Doctor
It’s great that there are so many solutions to improve your blood circulation naturally at home, but sometimes it’s best to leave it to a professional. Poor blood circulation can be a sign of a potentially fatal condition such as a blood clot so if you’re concerned, make an appointment with your doctor. Some warning signs include:
- Symptoms that don’t go away
- Severe pins and needles and cold extremities
- Skin tinted blue
- Wounds healing very slowly
I hope this list of 9 tips to improve your blood circulation naturally has been helpful for you. You will notice a big difference if you try 2 or 3 of them for a couple of weeks. If you don’t, give one of the others a shot. Let me know how you get on in the comments, and if you have any other ideas on how to improve your blood circulation naturally I’d love to hear them too.