How to improve your circulation and the 3 best vitamins and minerals to keep.
7 min read
Did you know your heart beats 100,000 a day, 35 million times a year, without you even having to think about it?
This adds up to three billion beats over an average lifetime. The blood that your heart pumps could travel about 60,000 miles through blood vessels (including all your arteries, capillaries and veins) that’s 2.5 times around the planet.
Let that sink in for a moment to fully appreciate just how incredibly efficient your circulatory system is.
But due to our sedentary lifestyle, sitting down for prolonged periods is now considered as serious a health risk as smoking. Once our circulatory system’s health was something we previously didn’t even consider, or maybe only considered on a long haul flight or before an operation.
With a surge in stand up desks to boost productivity, poor circulation and deep vein thrombosis have become a hot topic. So it’s time to revisit those school biology lessons to fully understand what our circulatory system does, the signs of poor circulation, and how you can support it with supplements containing vital nutrients to improve circulation.
What does our circulation system do?
Blood is approximately 10% of our adult weight, and ensuring our circulatory system is working efficiently to deliver blood and nutrients to all the body’s organs, including extremities, is vital.
The circulatory system comprises blood vessels that carry blood away from and towards the heart. Arteries carry blood away from the heart, and veins carry blood back to the heart. The circulatory system carries oxygen, nutrients, and hormones to cells, and removes waste products, like carbon dioxide.
The circulatory system is divided into two separate loops: the shorter pulmonary circuit that exchanges blood between the heart and the lungs for oxygenation; and the longer systemic circuit that distributes blood throughout all other systems and tissues of the body.
Both of these circuits begin and end in the heart.
What are the signs of poor circulation?
- Cold, numb hands and feet
- Hair loss on your legs
- Dry or cracked skin particularly on the feet
- Brittle toenails
- Slow healing of wounds or sores (particularly problematic in Diabetics)
- A pale blue colour to the skin of your legs
- Erectile dysfunction in men
- Tingling, numbness, throbbing or stinging pain in your limbs
- Poor vision
- Muscle cramps
You should always check with your GP if you consistently suffer from any of the above conditions as they may be related to an underlying health condition. Some of the most common tests your GP may carry out include testing your antibodies, blood sugar levels and blood pressure.
Among the most common circulatory disorders are Diabetes, Peripheral Artery Disease and Raynaud’s Disease and Varicose Veins.
What causes poor circulation?
It’s no surprise the causes of poor circulation are a result of health issues arising from:
- High Cholesterol
- High Blood Pressure
As with most things, the good news is that your circulation can improve with some slight adjustments to your lifestyle, namely movement and exercise.
10 simple ways to improve poor blood circulation
1. Get some exercise
Regular cardiovascular exercise supports the cardiovascular system’s health and improves the body’s ability to utilise oxygen.
2. Keep to a healthy weight
Maintaining a healthy weight helps promote good circulation.
3. Keep high blood pressure in check
High blood pressure hardens the arteries and reduces overall blood flow. You can lower blood pressure by reducing salt intake and eating foods rich in potassium such as bananas and nuts.
4. Invest in a standing desk
Sitting at a desk for hours can poorly affect circulation, so consider getting a standing desk, taking regular short walks and doing some stretching or mobility exercises throughout your working day to keep your circulation in check.
But remember, moderation always wins. Neither standing nor sitting is great for long durations, even working from a standing desk all day can lead to swollen ankles if you don’t move. It’s best to mix it up and sit when concentrating on complex work that requires deep thought, whilst standing when taking calls or doing light admin that doesn’t require so much deep cognitive focus.
5. Try yoga
Adding yoga into your wellness and self-care regime can help with your circulation, especially poses such as Downward Dog, where your hips are above your heart and your heart above your head. This means gravity helps facilitate blood flow to your head whilst strengthening and improving your limbs’ circulation.
6. Wear compression socks
Put a bit of squeeze on your legs, so your blood doesn’t hang around too long, instead moving it back up to your heart without obstructions. People with vein related conditions can wear compression socks to alleviate swollen ankles, heavy or aching legs, fatigue and pain, restless legs and night cramps.
Compression socks can provide many benefits in situations that aggravate venous conditions such as prolonged standing or sitting, travelling on a long flight or any forms of transport with limited legroom, during and post an operation and of course, pregnancy.
Ask your doctor or pharmacist for help on which length and amount of pressure are best for you as there are four main levels of compression to choose from: Mild compression for mild chronic venous activity, moderate compression for spider and varicose veins and firm and extra firm for more serious cases including deep vein thrombosis, leg ulcers and lymphatic oedema.
7. Dry Body Brushing
Using a dry body brush Is said to energise the body, increasing circulation and blood flow, and stimulating drainage from the lymphatic system. Start brushing from your feet upwards towards the heart.
8. Beet it Up
Beetroots are particularly rich in nitrates, which your body can convert to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps to loosen up your blood vessels and improves blood flow to your tissues and organs. Researchers have found that beetroot juice can lower your blood pressure too.¹
9. Stay Hydrated
Blood is 92% water, so it is no secret that you need to stay hydrated for optimal hydration. Aim for at least eight glasses of water per day if you’re a woman and 12 if you’re a man.
10. Dry Brush Your Skin
Dry brushing is great for removing dead skin and improving your circulation. Every morning before you shower, take a dry brush and gently scrub your skin starting at your feet and rub in circles up to your heart.
3 vital vitamins and minerals to improve blood circulation
The B vitamin group is made up of 8 nutrients. These vitamins are essential for forming red blood cells, fighting infections, and even neurological health. One of these, in particular, vitamin B3, can help people improve blood circulation.
Also called niacin, Vitamin B3 taken in supplement form, can help reduce inflammation and bad cholesterol and increase blood vessel function. Niacin is required for the proper function of fats and sugars in the body and to maintain healthy cells. It can also help reduce inflammation and bad cholesterol. At higher doses, niacin might help people with heart disease because of its beneficial effects on clotting. It may also improve levels of a certain type of fat called triglycerides in the blood.
Ginseng has been used for centuries as a powerful cure all. It contains chemical compounds called ginsenosides,which give it beneficial antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Some studies have shown that ginseng extracts and ginsenoside compounds could inhibit inflammation and increase antioxidant capacity in cells.² It’s also been shown to lower high blood pressure and increase blood circulation.³
Studies have found that patients who consume fatty fish or fish oil a few times per week can have over a 30% decreased chance of getting heart disease. Eating foods rich in Omega-3 can lower triglyceride levels and increase high-density lipoprotein (ie, good cholesterol) levels. Omega-3 may also decrease platelet aggregation, which can prevent the coronary arteries from occluding, which would prevent or decrease blood flow to the heart.
The best sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and anchovies. Vegetarians or vegans may struggle to get enough omega-3s from diet alone, in which case, a supplement may be recommended.
All it takes is a few tweaks
So whilst our circulation isn’t something we’d ever usually think about, keeping our circulatory system functioning optimally is extremely important. Making slight tweaks to your lifestyle keeps blood flowing so it can keep your heart beating 100,000 a day without you even having to think about it.