Swollen legs and feet? Aches and pain? These are just some of the symptoms of poor blood circulation. The body contains around 60,000 miles of blood vessels. These are the arteries that carry blood from the heart to every part of your body, the veins that transport poor-oxygen blood back to the heart, and the capillaries that connect the veins and arteries. Together with your heart and lungs, these blood vessels make up your circulatory system.
Also known as the cardiovascular system, the circulatory system has two main parts: pulmonary circulation and systemic circulation. The pulmonary circulation is responsible for exchanging blood and other tissue fluids from the heart to the lungs and back to the heart. The systemic circulation is the one in charge of carrying oxygen, nutrients, other gases, and hormones to cells. It also collects deoxygenated blood that has carbon dioxide and waste products then sends it back to the heart.
Poor circulation happens when blood flow to a certain part of the body is lessened and that part is unable to get all the oxygen and nutrients it needs. This usually occurs in your extremities such as your arms and legs. The inadequate supply of oxygen, especially to your legs and feet, can cause many health problems.
Symptoms of Poor Circulation in the Legs and Feet:
- Cold feet
- Leg or feet pain
- Pins and needles
- Discoloration - legs, feet, or nails
- Heavy feeling in your legs and feet
- Emergence of varicose veins
- Skin breakage
- Itchy and/or scaly skin rash
- Feet or ankle hair stops growing
- Swollen veins
- Elevated blood pressure
- Wounds or sores take a long time to heal
- Nerve damage
- Tissue damage
- Muscle cramps
Common Causes of Poor Circulation:
Age - As one gets old, a certain degree of damage to the circulatory system cannot be avoided. The aorta thickens and baroreceptors become less sensitive.
Inactive lifestyle - Good blood flow involves movement to keep your heart in good condition and pump blood without difficulty. So those who don’t move around a lot have a higher risk of having circulation issues.
Diabetes - After some time, diabetes can cause many health complications including poor circulation, hypertension, neuropathy, heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke.
Obesity - Being obese pushes the heart to work more in pumping blood. The feet also have to bear the excess weight and this can cause circulation impairment.
Atherosclerosis - Is a disease wherein plaque builds up inside the arteries. Plaque hardens over time and results in the narrowing of the arteries. This then reduces the flow of blood.
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) - PAD happens when blood vessels outside of the heart become narrow due to atherosclerosis. If left untreated, blood flow to the legs is greatly reduced or even stopped that could then lead to tissue death. This can sometimes result in leg or foot amputation.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) - DVT is a blood clot that is often formed in a vein deep within the thigh or lower leg. This can block the flow of blood to the feet and if a DVT breaks loose, it can cause a serious lung blockage known as pulmonary embolism.
Venous Insufficiency - This is a condition where blood gathers at the vein instead of going back to the heart. This can occur at any age but mostly happens as a person grows older.
If you have any of the symptoms of poor blood circulation, the first thing to do is to consult your doctor. Your primary care physician may then refer you to a vascular specialist who can diagnose your condition, prescribe medications, and formulate a treatment plan to manage your poor circulation problem.
Here are some tips to improve circulation:
- Regular exercise
- Proper diet
- Keep a healthy weight
- Elevate your feet
- Use compression stockings
- Stop smoking
- Manage your blood pressure
- Drink lots of water
- Avoid stress
- Take a warm bath
- Use a Chi Machine
You might also be interested to read Are Pelvic Floor Disorders Causing Your Back Pain? and 15 Benefits of Aerobic Exercise.