Winter Warmers – A Guide to Healthy Circulation

Winter Warmers – A Guide to Healthy Circulation

Author -  Good Health

How Do You Know If You Have Poor Circulation?

Every single cell in your body relies on receiving the right amount of nutrition and oxygen from your blood, so having enough blood flow around your body to deliver those vital components is incredibly important, especially because your cells also need that blood flow to remove waste products.

As circulation to your vital organs (e.g. heart, brain and digestive system) takes priority, when your blood circulation slows down it normally affects your hands and feet first. The hands and feet also lose heat more rapidly since they have a high surface area-to-volume ratio and they are more likely to be in contact with colder surfaces than other parts of the body.

Some of the symptoms of poor circulation include: tingling, numbness, muscle cramps, throbbing or stinging pain, erectile dysfunction and a sensitivity to the cold. If you find that any of these issues are a regular occurrence for you, it could be a sign that your blood isn’t circulating around your body as well as it should be.

Winter Warmers – A Guide to Healthy Circulation

What Gets Your Blood Pumping?

At the centre of everything lies your heart. As your heart beats, it pumps blood through your arteries, veins and blood vessels, carrying oxygen and nutrients to the rest of your body. When your body requires more oxygen (such as when you exercise), your heart beats faster, pushing the blood around more quickly. Unfortunately, there are many things that can cause your circulatory system to function at a less-than-optimum level.

These are some of the causes of poor circulation:
  • Raynaud’s Disease: This is a condition where those affected suffer from chronic cold hands and feet. Raynaud’s Disease is caused by the narrowing of arteries in the hands and feet, making them less effective at moving blood around. Sometimes this coldness can extend to the lips, nose and ears. It’s more common in women, particularly those that live in colder climates. 
  • Varicose Veins: Varicose veins develop due to a loss of elasticity in the veins and normally occur in the legs. The reasons for developing varicose veins vary, but often they boil down to genetics, a poor diet, too much stress or insufficient exercise. Your veins are designed to be a one-way street. The valves inside them ensure that blood only travels in one direction, but the valves in varicose veins aren’t as effective, allowing some blood to travel backwards, effecting overall blood flow. 
  • Obesity: Carrying around excess weight puts a lot of pressure on your body, particularly your heart, raising the risk of high blood pressure, increased cholesterol, high triglyceride levels and blood fats. All of these have an impact on your circulatory system, creating obstacles for your blood flow. 
  • Diabetes: The high blood glucose caused by diabetes thickens capillary walls and makes blood more sticky, making it harder to pass through blood vessels. The added pressure can cause small blood vessels to leak, disrupting blood flow.
  • Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD): PAD is a condition that causes the arteries and blood vessels to narrow, making it more difficult for blood to pass through. With smaller pathways, the risk of plaque build-up also increases, which (worst case scenario) could result in a stroke or heart attack. This disease is more common in people over 50, with smokers being at a higher risk. 

Winter Warmers – A Guide to Healthy Circulation

How to Improve Your Circulation:

Depending on the cause of your circulation issues, your diet can make a big difference. Keeping an eye on your cholesterol levels is a good start – your blood has a much better chance of getting around the body if your arteries are clear.

These are a few things you can do to help get your blood flowing…

Quick Tips:

  • Massage – as if you needed an excuse! Massaging the areas affected (most likely your hands and feet) will help circulate oxygen-rich blood. The pressure of certain massage techniques helps to move blood around and the release allows new blood to flow in.
  • Exercise – a sure-fire way to get the heart pumping and the blood flowing. Exercising three or four times a week is enough to vastly improve your circulation. When you have a higher volume of blood travelling around your body, your arteries, veins and blood vessel get a work out too, and their functionality will improve more and more over time. 
  • Sauna – time to sweat it out. Having a sauna (a lot of gyms will have one) increases and enhances circulation while oxygenating the cells, organs and tissues throughout the body. Sweating also helps your body to remove metabolic waste and toxins.

Winter Warmers – A Guide to Healthy Circulation

There are many natural ingredients that can also help to stimulate blood flow. Introducing any of the below to your diet could do wonders for your circulation: 

  • Ginkgo: Ginkgo biloba increases blood flow to extremities and has been used to treat varicose veins and improve brain function for years. It also helps to both strengthen and relax blood vessels, allowing blood to flow more easily.
  • Grape Seed Extract: Grape seed extract contains a powerful antioxidant called oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPC) – this improves capillary strength and blood vessel integrity to support healthy circulation. 
  • Vitamin E: This special vitamin helps to protect the circulatory system from free radical damage.
  • CoQ10: Co-enzyme Q10 is an important nutrient found in every cell in your body. As we age, our natural levels decrease so it’s important that we supplement to assist the maintenance of normal circulation, energy levels and cardiovascular health. 
  • Cacao: The flavonoid content in cacao is so high that it improves blood circulation, lowers blood pressure, promotes the dilation, strength and health of blood vessels, supporting overall cardiovascular health.
  • Cayenne: Though it may sound unlikely, cayenne can be used both externally and internally to promote good circulation. Capsicum-based creams, liniments and infused oils can be rubbed onto the skin to stimulate blood flow, while taking it as a powder, capsule or liquid tincture (even added to your food) can regulate blood flow, strengthening the arteries and capillaries. This fantastic winter warmer not only gets the blood pumping around your body, it strengthens your heart, clears your arteries and raises your metabolic rate too. 

Winter Warmers – A Guide to Healthy Circulation

Whether you’re particularly sensitive to the cold or suffer from more severe conditions like diabetes, looking after your circulatory system should be a priority. Try some blood flow stimulating exercises like massage, keep an eye on what you’re putting into your body and get active – your body (and your cold feet and hands) will thank you for it.

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