Movement is a necessary part of life. Whether you’re a tree, a flower, an insect, an animal, or a person, you need to stay moving to thrive. The same can be said about your blood. Your body consists of 60,000 miles of blood vessels – that means if you connected each one end to end, they would circle the earth two and a half times (1)!
Similar to a highway, these blood vessels act as a network that helps carry life-giving nutrients to your body. In order for it to do that, you need to have good circulation.
In this article, we’ll dive into why good circulation matters, health risks that can result from poor blood circulation, and ways you can actively begin to increase circulation for better health and wellness.
Why Good Circulation Matters
Your blood vessels carry oxygen and other nutrients to every organ in your body. Your health depends on these vessels working properly.
But what happens when things slow down? Think back to the analogy of the highway. When rush hour or traffic jams happen, the road becomes blocked, cars can wreck, and people can get hurt. Similarly, if blood doesn’t get to where it needs to, the rest of your tissues begin to suffer. If oxygen isn’t readily available, your cells begin to die.
Good circulation also helps heal wounds faster, keeps your brain sharp, and gives your skin a healthy hue.
How it Works
Your circulatory system is a closed-circuit system that involves your heart, as well as three types of blood vessels (2):
- Veins: these vessels carry blood back to your heart. If you look at your skin, you’ll notice they appear blue. This is because of the way light is reflected off your skin. The veins themselves are relatively colorless (3).
- Arteries: larger than veins, these vessels carry blood away from your heart. There are two types of arteries: Pulmonary (transports blood from the right ventricle to your lungs) and Systemic (transports blood from the left ventricle to the rest of your body).
- Capillaries: these tiny vessels help connect the veins and arteries, as well as transport carbon dioxide and other waste products out of your body (4).
All three work together to keep blood moving throughout your body.
Dangers of Poor Circulation
To fully appreciate the different ways you can boost blood flow and circulation, it’s important to understand what can happen if your circulation remains poor for a long period of time.
In milder cases, poor circulation can leave your hands and feet feeling cold or numb. Your nails might begin to get dry and brittle, hair can start to fall out, and your skin may take on a bluish tint.
Men may have trouble getting or maintaining an erection, and if you’re diabetic, open sores or wounds might take longer to heal.
In more severe cases, poor circulation can contribute to decreased mobility, ulcers, strokes, and even heart attacks (5).
Some of the most common causes of poor circulation are (11):
- Age: the older you get, the more your body tends to slow down. Thickened aortas, not moving around more, and weakened blood vessels can discourage good blood flow.
- Smoking: smoking contains ingredients that promote inflammation and stress on the body. It damages your lungs and blood vessels,
- Diabetes: diabetes can take a toll on your body in many ways. Gum disease, heart issues, and poor circulation are among some of the complications this disease has.
- Weight: being overweight puts a lot of pressure on your joints and heart. It increases blood pressure, which can make it difficult to get blood moving consistently.
- Sedentary lifestyle: lack of regular exercise can decrease muscle mass, lower your immune system, and decrease your circulation throughout your body.
9 Ways to Improve Circulation
Since proper blood flow is crucial to good health, what are some practical steps you can take to improve blood flow and increase circulation?
- Stop smoking: tobacco, nicotine, and other toxic chemicals can inflame your artery walls. Stopping can help blood flow easier.
- Drink up: staying hydrated is part of achieving any health goals, particularly if you want to increase circulation. Your blood has a large percentage of water in it, so sip on water throughout the day if you can. If you’re exercising or it’s hot outside, bring extra water with you.
- Take standing breaks: some jobs today require sitting at a desk for hours at a time. Not only can this cause a lack of blood flow to your legs, but it can also affect your mood. It can also raise your risk for diseases like heart disease and diabetes (6). Try to stand up and stretch your limbs every 30-60 minutes.
- Stretch often: a thorough stretch can feel good, as well as increase blood flow. Stretches don’t have to take long. Try raising both hands towards the sky, or extending your feet forwards, then back again. Even simple leg stretches can prevent your risk for stroke (7).
- Get pumping: exercise can take different forms, but aiming for aerobic varieties can help boost circulation. Swinging your arms when you walk, biking, and jogging are all ways you can get your heart pumping. This can help get your blood moving to all the right places.
- Rock the socks: compression socks are a great way to keep circulation flowing more easily. These special socks are designed to squeeze your legs a little more than the average sock. This helps keep blood from pooling in your veins and helps your tissues get maximum absorption (8).
- Brush your body: dry brushing can be incredibly helpful in improving overall blood flow. Choose a brush with firm bristles, making gentle, sweeping motions from your limbs to your heart (9).
- Suds it up: while this isn’t a long-term solution, a nice warm bath can help open up your vessels, encouraging blood to flow more freely. Consider adding Epsom salts and a few drops of lemon, grapefruit, or clary sage (10).
- Maintain good posture: slouching or slumping for long periods of time can encourage poor circulation. Check out these additional benefits of good posture here (12,13).
If this list seems overwhelming, pick one and start there. It’s better to start slow and stick with it than try to do everything and burn out.
Good blood flow is synonymous with good health. Your circulatory system involves a complex system of different-sized blood vessels. Some carry fresh oxygenated blood to your tissues, and others carry carbon dioxide and waste to your lungs for removal. Poor circulation is typically seen more often in older age groups, those who smoke, are overweight, aren’t active, or have health conditions such as diabetes. If not addressed, cold limbs, stiffness, and blood clots are a very real future.
Thankfully, there are ways you can increase circulation for better health. Staying active, taking stretch breaks, enjoying warm baths, wearing compression socks, dry brushing, and drinking lots of water are simple and easy places to start. Kicking habits like smoking to the curb can also help your body enjoy a long and healthy life.
Do you or someone you know struggle with poor circulation? Share these tips with them!
About the Author: Dani Deneau is a holistic copywriter and content marketer. When she’s not writing, she enjoys time with her family on their small homestead.