The circulatory system is the transportation highway of the body. Blood vessels carry and deliver oxygen, nutrients, and healing cells to all parts of the body. Poor circulation can result in poor wound healing, heart disease, stroke, and a myriad of other conditions. Symptoms of poor circulation may include muscle pain, swelling, and fatigue. Fortunately, there are many simple and manageable steps one can take to improve circulation.
Regular exercise is a sustainable way to improve circulation. Exercise increases the heart’s pumping rate, which increases the flow and pressure of blood throughout the body. The controlled increased pressure of blood helps stretch blood vessels, making them more flexible with time. This stress is essentially like stretching for blood vessels because it helps retain flexibility. To start an exercise routine, it is recommended that one start slowly and build steadily to avoid overstressing the heart. Simple stretching, walking, and yoga and great exercises for beginners.
Drink More Water
Drinking adequate water is another simple way to improve vascular health. Because blood is composed of 50% water, maintaining healthy hydration, in turn, maintains healthy blood viscosity and pressure. Water aids in digestion by increasing bowel regularity and flushing bacteria and waste from the bladder. This positive effect on digestion allows the body to break down nutrients effectively and also allows the circulatory system to efficiently deliver those nutrients throughout the body.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Small changes to diet can make a big difference for the circulatory system. Limit saturated fats in the diet and include more omega-3 fatty acids. Replacing red meat with fish can improve heart health. Some foods have a direct effect on the blood vessels. Capsaicin is a chemical that makes food spicy and stimulates the release of vasodilators, which are chemicals that can help expand the blood vessels. Cayenne pepper has been shown to increase circulation and reduce the amount of plaque that gets stuck on the artery walls. Other vasodilators, such as leafy green vegetables and turmeric, release nitric oxide to elicit their effect. Antioxidants, such as anthocyanin found in berries, prevent arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the vessel walls.
Taking steps to manage your stress can improve circulation and reduce the potential for vascular disease. Chronic anxiety can cause hyperventilation which can increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream. Increased carbon dioxide levels lead to vasoconstriction, increasing damaging blood pressure while decreasing blood flow efficiency. To reduce stress, prioritize restorative sleep. Sleep improves concentration, regulates mood, improves decision-making abilities, and restores the body.
Identify triggers and work to eliminate them. Plan things ahead more often to eliminate surprises that can cause stress. Exercise, meditation, and massage can all increase stress-relieving hormones. Finally, a trained psychologist is the best resource for providing mental health care, including managing stress.
One more important step to take for circulatory health is smoking cessation. Smoking is known to contribute to hypertension (unhealthy high blood pressure) and cardiovascular disease. The nicotine in cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products cause vasoconstriction. As discussed earlier, this vasoconstriction decreases healthy blood flow throughout the body and increases blood pressure to a point that the internal vessel walls are damaged. Smoking increases carbon monoxide levels in the blood. Carbon monoxide binds the oxygen-carrying molecule, hemoglobin, thereby decreasing oxygen transport throughout the body.
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Improving circulation can be sustainable and doesn’t need to be difficult. A decreased risk of heart attack, peripheral artery disease, and hypertension can be as easy as incorporating the above tips into one’s daily routine. Of course, it is important to share your concerns and lifestyle with a physician. Small lifestyle changes can make a big impact on not only vascular health but overall wellbeing.