If you are an adult and were to stretch all your blood vessels end to end in a straight line, they would measure nearly 100,000 miles long. Every day, the vast network of arteries, veins, and capillaries circulate about 1.2 to 1.5 gallons of blood throughout the body. Arteries deliver oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to body tissues and cells, while veins carry away toxins and waste products.
A healthy circulatory system delivers all the oxygen and nutrients cells and tissues need to function, and removes toxic byproducts of cell function. An unhealthy circulatory system, by comparison, does a poor job of delivering nutrients and carrying away byproducts. Poor circulation leaves body cells and tissues at risk of oxygen deprivation and exposure to harmful toxins.
Symptoms of poor circulation include:
- Throbbing or stinging pain in your hands or feet
- Muscle cramps
Conditions that cause poor circulation can cause additional symptoms. Peripheral artery disease (PAD) may cause erectile dysfunction, for example. Blood clots can block the flow of blood partially or entirely; a blood clot that breaks free may result in a stroke. Varicose veins can cause the appearance of twisted, enlarged veins in your lower legs.
Steps for Improving Circulation
Engaging in physical activity is one of the best ways to improve your circulation. Exercise makes your heart work harder, which causes your blood to move faster through your blood vessels. Exercise also helps keep your blood vessels flexible, so that they can stretch as needed to accommodate the increased blood flow.
Your arteries carry blood downward from your heart to your feet. Your veins must fight gravity to bring blood back upwards towards the heart. Excess weight makes it even harder for your veins to move your blood upwards out of your lower legs. A 2009 study showed that losing weight helped improve circulation in overweight women.
A 2014 scientific review of evidence showed that practicing yoga benefited the cardiovascular system. Certain yoga positions, such as downward-facing dog, are especially effective at improving circulation. The downward-facing dog position puts your hips and heart above your head, which allows blood to circulate up into your head more easily.
Eat Oily Fish
Oily fish, such as, mackerel and salmon, contain omega-3 fatty acids known to be beneficial for the heart and blood vessels.
Participate in Screening
Early detection of circulatory problems can improve treatment outcomes. Your doctor can order blood tests, ultrasounds, and computed tomography (CT) scans to assess the health of your circulatory system. For more information on ways to improve your circulation, consult with your doctor or other healthcare professional. Make an appointment today with Virtual Imaging, Inc. Imaging Center at 770-730-0119.