Patient Guide To Improving Circulation in the Feet and Lower Extremities
Your circulatory system consists of blood vessels that deliver blood throughout the body. Blood keeps your body healthy and functioning. It transports oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and eliminates carbon dioxide and waste. Given the importance of blood, poor circulation can lead to serious health problems.
Poor circulation in your feet and lower extremities occurs because of compromised blood vessels that serve those regions. Common symptoms of poor circulation in the legs and feet include numbness, muscle cramps, and cold feet.
It is imperative that poor circulation is treated to improve circulation in your legs and feet and prevent serious health complications. Keep reading for a comprehensive guide on improving circulation in your feet and lower extremities.
How Poor Circulation Affects the Feet and Lower Extremities
Several conditions contribute to poor circulation in the feet. They include Raynaud’s disease, arteriosclerosis, and peripheral artery disease (PAD).
Raynaud's disease causes the narrowing of your small arteries; it limits blood flow to the impacted regions.
Arteriosclerosis happens when the arteries harden due to plaque buildup. The condition makes it hard for blood to travel through your arteries. Plaque is a sticky material comprised of fat and cholesterol. If left untreated, this plaque can cause an occlusion that may limit or stop blood flow, leading to amputation of toes, feet or limbs, or even death.
Smoking and lack of exercise can significantly contribute to poor circulation. As many of us age, plaque may accumulate in the blood vessels causing poor circulation. Poor blood flow in the lower extremities and feet can cause many issues. These include:
- Weak toenails
- Dry and cracked feet
- Wounds healing slowly
- Hair loss on the legs
- Amputation of toes, feet or legs
- DVT or Pulmonary Embolism
How To Improve Circulation in the Feet and Lower Extremities
Living a healthy lifestyle can be difficult with all of the demands we face each day. Taking the time to do the following things can have significant health benefits; such as, improving circulation, lowering stress, and improving overall health and well-being.
Regularly stretching offers many benefits to your body. Using the correct stretching technique can help improve blood circulation, as well as flexibility. Stretching doesn’t have to be complex. A study found that simple leg stretches can greatly enhance vascular function. A good stretching regimen makes muscles and arteries less stiff, making them blood vessels dilate more easily.
Yoga is a great option for people who are looking for guided stretching techniques to improve blood flow to the legs and feet. The movements can help in the distribution of oxygenated blood, as well as introduce breathing exercises that have been known to improve blood pressure.
Walking is a simple but effective form of exercise. It’s a great way to stay active and helps with weight loss. In addition, walking helps improve circulation throughout the whole body.
Walking increases muscle contraction in the legs. The contraction and relaxation enhance circulation in areas where the flow is stagnant. You can walk at any pace to reap the benefits of this low-impact exercise. In addition to increasing circulation, walking can also help lift your mood. The vascular specialists at Center for Vascular Medicine in Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey, recommend walking for at least 30 minutes three to five times per week to improve your health and well-being.
Most people spend a majority of their day sitting, especially while working. Spending 75% of your hours awake stationary can have a significantly negative impact on your health. Sitting for a long time reduces blood flow to your lower extremities, and other areas of the body. It also heightens the likelihood of obesity, heart illness, and diabetes. Luckily, you can avoid problems associated with sitting for too long.
You can improve circulation to your legs by taking regular breaks. During the breaks, stand up and move around or stretch. Also, consider using a standing desk.
Position Your Body Better
Crossing your legs when you sit impedes circulation in your lower extremities. It cuts off blood flow. So, avoid that sitting position and opt for better ones to promote blood flow.
You can try sitting with your feet on the floor and legs slightly apart. Ensure you regularly get up from this position to avoid poor circulation. You can also elevate your legs by placing your feet on a surface like a stool. Consider your posture while sitting and standing to ensure your back and neck are supported, as well.
When you sleep, you can place your legs on a pillow. Doing this will improve blood flow. It’s also great for your spine.
Wear Compression Socks
Swelling in the feet and legs is a very common symptom of poor circulation. You can wear compression stockings to alleviate the swelling. Compression stockings come in various strengths, as well as various lengths. Speak with your medical provider to determine which compression stocking is best for you. The vascular specialists at the Center for Vascular Medicine recommend knee length medical grade compression socks to the majority of their patients.
The stockings help improve blood flow and reduce swelling and inflammation. They apply pressure to your legs and feet, stimulating blood flow back up to the heart. The stockings can be beneficial if your work requires you to sit or stand for long hours.
Smoking negatively impacts the flow of blood in your body. Nicotine causes the tightening of blood vessels, thereby limiting circulation. Smoking can lead to blood clots and swelling in your feet and ankles.
When you smoke, your heart works in less than optimal conditions. Thus, it leads to damaged blood vessels, including the veins in your legs. So, it is imperative to stop smoking to give yourself the best chance of healthy blood vessels.
Ensure Proper Hydration
Proper hydration makes sure your heart has an easier time pumping blood. You should drink enough water to ensure your blood volume stays at a healthy level. Doing so helps you maintain proper blood flow.
The amount of water you need to drink will depend on various factors. These include the climate and your activity level, as well as your height, weight and age. Don’t wait until you get thirsty to hydrate. When you’re thirsty, you’re already experiencing dehydration.
Have a Good Diet
Eating nutritious meals will help you prevent diseases that impact circulation. These include conditions like heart disease and hypertension.
Include foods that help with circulation in your diet. Examples of such foods are cinnamon, garlic, and fatty fish. Also, it is highly recommended that you reduce your intake of saturated fat and salt.
For some people, blood flow may get worse when it’s cold. You can avoid that by keeping your home warm and wearing warmer clothes. You can also use hand or foot warmers if necessary.
Additionally, taking a warm bath may also help by temporarily improving circulation by causing blood vessels to dilate.
If you or someone you love is experiencing poor circulation in your legs or any of these symptoms, you can take various steps to improve blood flow. You can make subtle life changes to improve your condition, from exercising to eating a nutritious meal. Remember to also consult a healthcare provider for a comprehensive treatment plan.