The average adult has about 60,000 miles of blood vessels that circulate nutrients and take away toxins from your 20 trillion body cells. If you are you feeling sluggish, worn out or have frequent pain in your legs, then you may be suffering from poor blood circulation. You cannot get healthier with poor circulation. Poor circulation is not a condition itself. But it results from other health issues. A poor functioning circulatory system can increase your chances of serious illnesses like cardiovascular disease, eye disease, kidney disease, diabetes and dementia. However, it’s easy to boost circulation by adopting healthy lifestyle habits.
Boost Circulation and Reduce Illness
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a circulatory condition that causes narrowing the blood vessels and arteries. Over time it can cause numbness, tingling and nerve damage. (1)
Your body’s, blood circulation is driven by the heart, transporting life-sustaining oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to your organs, and then carrying back carbon-dioxide and metabolic waste from your organs.
When there is a build up of fatty substance called plaque inside the blood vessels, it restricts free flow of blood around the body. Often this is triggered by inflammation caused by poor lifestyle habits such as smoking, alcohol use, excess weight, poor diet and lack of physical activity due to sedentary lifestyle or an occupation that involves long periods of sitting. Often times medical conditions lead to a poor circulatory system.
How Circulation Can Reduce Disease
The primary ways that circulation can be impeded include: thick blood (versus thin blood that circulates better), weak heart, hardened or occluded arteries. Good circulation is like uninterrupted flow of life force energy around your body, which is vitally important for proper functioning of your body and mind, besides reducing the risk of serious illnesses:
- Heart disease: Poor circulation allows plaque formation along the walls of the arteries, which constrict and harden them causing high blood pressure and elevating the risk for heart attack and stroke. By boosting circulation you facilitate the free flow of blood and lower your risk of heart diseases.
- Diabetes: Your circulatory system is responsible for the delivery of glucose in the blood, around the body. By supporting good circulation you help with better regulation of blood glucose levels, which reduce your risk of diabetes.
- Cancer: Low cellular oxygenation levels are an underlying cause of cancer. By strengthening your circulation you increase oxygen supply to your cells and thereby reduce cancer growth.
- Alzheimer’s disease: Poor circulation can damage blood vessels and form plaques in the brain that cause Alzheimer’s disease. By boosting circulation you can keep your brain healthy and prevent Alzheimer’s disease. These foods have been shown to help protect your brain.
- Improve exercise capacity: When you exercise, your working muscles need more oxygen and nutrients. Good circulation helps in meeting these needs, which improves your exercise capacity.
Ways to Boost Circulation to Reduce Disease
You can improve your circulation by adopting a healthier lifestyle with regular exercise, nutritious diet and some supplements:
Avoid Habits That Interfere With Proper Circulation: Smoking, soft drinks and processed junk foods (high in sugar or salt, refined grains, and fat), increase inflammation and plaque formation. This will harm your efforts to get healthier.
Massage is a wonderful way to help move blood through congested areas and boost circulation. Massage therapy improves general blood flow and alleviates muscle soreness after exercise, according to a recent study. (1) Try coconut oil, jojoba or shea butter together with a few drops of essential oils such as rosemary, lavender, frankincense, or bergamot.
Getting Healthier: A healthy diet, high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats; keeps blood alkaline and helps in fighting inflammation, lowering cholesterol levels and reducing plaque formation in the arteries. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and may reduce many chronic diseases. (3)Also staying hydrated (8-12 glasses a day), helps in increasing oxygen level in the blood that improves circulation.
Exercise Regularly: Spend about 30 minutes every day doing exercise, as movement keeps blood pumping and prevents stagnation in all parts of the body. People, who sit at the desk all day, should take regular breaks to stretch their bodies for 3-5 minutes for boosting circulation.
Manage Stress: When you are relaxed, capillaries and muscles function smoothly, allowing easier blood flow. Relaxation activities like yoga, listening to music, breathing exercises and meditation help in improving circulation. Adequate sleep and massage also help in increasing blood circulation by relaxing effects on your body.
Dry Skin Brushing: Your skin is made up of nerves, glands and many layers to protect your body. Your skin is vital in helping detoxifying your body. If your skin is unable to detox due to layers of dead skin cells you will not be able to remove metabolic wastes from your body which is necessary for optimal circulation.
Circulation Promoting Supplements Can Help:
Some supplements and herbs act as a vasodilator (facilitate blood vessels to open wide or dilate) and are found useful in improving circulation:
- Gingko Biloba. Laboratory studies have shown that ginkgo improves blood circulation by opening up blood vessels and making blood less stick. It is also an antioxidant. (2)
- Magnesium: Magnesium improves circulation by promoting vasodilation. It also acts as a lubricant to the heart and facilitates smooth flow of blood by preventing platelet stickiness.
- Vitamin A: Vitamin A (Retinol) enhances good circulation by ensuring that respiratory system is strong enough to provide oxygen-rich blood to every cell of the body.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid) keeps arteries flexible that prevents plaque accumulation and narrowing of the arteries. It also increases absorption of the iron, a vital part of haemoglobin that is responsible for carrying oxygen to the body’s tissues.
- Vitamin E: Vitamin E (Tocopherols) preserves red blood cells, prevents blood clotting and helps in widening of blood vessels for easy transit of blood through them.
- Vitamin B: Vitamin B is a complex of many water soluble vitamins that are vital for proper functioning of circulatory system.
- Thiamine (Vitamin B1) is required for blood formation and proper muscle function, especially in the heart.
- Niacin (Vitamin B3) helps in dilation of blood vessels, lowering cholesterol levels, preventing plaque formation and hardening of the arteries.
- Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5) is an antioxidant nutrient, which boosts circulation by inhibiting the formation of damaging free radicals.
- Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6) is required for production of RBCs and metabolism of homocysteine, an amino acid that is a risk factor for hardening of the arteries.
- Biotin (Vitamin B7) boosts circulation by reducing the thickening of the arteries and lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- Folic Acid (Vitamin B9) like pyridoxine prevents development and progression of atherosclerosis through reduction in homocysteine levels.
- Cyanocobalamin (vitamin B12) is important for the function and maintenance of the red blood cells. Vitamin B12 also prevents elevation of homocysteine levels.
- Turmeric: Turmeric has an active ingredient curcumin that prevents formation of blood clots and reduces plaque build-up in the arteries. Turmeric has been shown to reduce platelets from clumping together, which in turn improves circulation and may help protect against atherosclerosis. (4) In a 2012 study, curcumin supplements effect on the blood flow was found similar to exercise.
- Ginger Root: Ginger is a herb that helps in blood circulation and healthy heart function by acting as a natural blood thinner, which reduces the risk of blood clotting and high blood pressure. It also reduces plaque formation by lowering blood cholesterol levels.
- Hawthorne (Crataegus): Hawthorne is a well known herb that has been used for centuries to improve circulation. It’s berries and leaves contain anti-oxidants and quercitin, which help in increasing circulation and lowering of blood pressure
- Green Tea: Green tea has phyto-chemicals that improve blood flow by relaxing the blood vessels and reducing the risk of blood clotting. In one study, consumption of green tea rapidly improved the function of (endothelial) cells that line the circulatory system.
- Barberry: Barberry root contains an active compound, Berbamine and other beneficial alkaloids, that reduce inflammation, enhance the contraction of heart muscles and help in expanding the blood vessels to increase blood flow.
- Fish oil. Omega 3 fats make the blood flow more readily through the tiny capillaries that feed the distant tissues.
Cacao, cayenne, garlic, and resveratrol (i.e. bio active compound found in grapes and red wine) also help to boost circulation and reduce illness leading you to a healthier and longer life.
(4) Srivastava R, Dikshit M, Srimal RC, Dhawan BN. Anti-thrombotic effect of curcumin. Thromb Res1985;40:413-7.