Poor circulation is when parts of the body do not get sufficient blood flow, and there are a number of conditions that can cause this symptom. There are currently around 7.6 million people living with a heart or circulatory condition in the UK, so being able to spot the signs and symptoms of these conditions and their risk factors is important in order for people to live healthier lives.
The British Heart Foundation currently support over £450m of research into heart and circulatory conditions and their risk factors, enabling those affected to live well with their condition. In support of their fantastic work, we wanted to share a brief article with you to provide information on these conditions and to help you understand them.
What Are Circulation Conditions?
Your body’s circulation system is in charge of sending blood to and from the heart, delivering oxygen and nutrients around the body and removing waste products, like carbon dioxide. When the blood flow is reduced to parts of your body, you may experience some physical changes that can be symptoms of poor circulation, often occurring in your limbs.
According to the British Heart Foundation, cardiovascular disease (CVD), also known as heart and circulatory disease, is a term that covers a number of conditions that affect your heart and circulatory system. They include conditions such as coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, stroke and vascular dementia.
Which Conditions Are Likely To Lead To Poor Circulation
Having a build-up of fatty deposits inside arteries and problems with other blood vessels will make you more likely to experience a condition that leads to poor circulation. There are a number of conditions that can lead to poor circulation, including:
- Peripheral artery disease
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
- Varicose veins
There are some factors that we cannot change, such as gender, age and ethnicity, which can also play a part in developing poor circulation. However, there are other lifestyle factors which you can make changes to reduce your risk of developing or worsening poor circulation.
- Smoking cigarettes can lead to a build-up of fatty materials in your arteries, meaning you are more likely to experience poor circulation and develop heart and circulatory conditions.
- High cholesterol can be caused by lifestyle factors such as a diet high in saturated fat and inactivity, but also factors you can’t control like age and ethnic background, as long as you take care of the factors that you can control, you’ll help lower your risk. Having high cholesterol can lead to narrowing of the arteries, causing poor circulation and increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
- High blood pressure, which is also known as hypertension, is where your blood pressure is consistently too high and means your heart has to work harder. High blood pressure can cause arteries to become too stiff or narrow, which means they are more likely to become blocked with fatty materials – causing poor circulation and increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
- Physical inactivity and being sedentary can lead to fatty materials building up in your arteries.
Symptoms Of Poor Circulation
Sometimes, poor circulation can be a warning sign of other health conditions and can help people spot when it may be time to make some lifestyle changes. There are many symptoms of poor circulation and it can be beneficial to keep track of any changes or signs of poor circulation for your general wellbeing and to prevent long-term illnesses.
Symptoms of poor circulation can include:
- Cold feet or hands
- Numb feet or hands
- Hair loss on your feet or legs
- A pale blue colour to the skin of your legs (if you have pale skin)
- Dry or cracked skin, particularly of the feet
- Swelling in the feet, ankle and legs
- Brittle toenails
- Slow healing of wounds or sores
- Erectile dysfunction
Treating Poor Circulation
Poor circulation may be a symptom of several conditions; as part of your diagnosis, a cardiologist will investigate your condition before deciding on the most appropriate treatment. Alongside lifestyle changes: which could include a healthy balanced diet, stopping smoking and getting more physical activity into your day, your doctor will assess your condition and may refer you or recommend one or more of the following treatments:
- Compression stockings – these come in a variety of sizes and strengths of compressions and you will need to be measured by your nurse or doctor to make sure the size is correct. Compression socks can be prescribed for short periods of time or for several years, they prevent swelling in the legs and help blood flow return up the leg.
- Medication – your doctor may prescribe medication such blood thinners to reduce your risk of a blood clot, and statins to help lower cholesterol. Both can reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Stent – stents may be considered if you have narrowing in the arteries in your legs and your doctor cannot manage your condition with medication. Stents act as a scaffold to keep arteries open, preventing blockages and improving circulation.
- Bypass grafts – if you have severe peripheral arterial disease (PAD) affecting your legs, bypass surgery might be considered. Bypass grafts divert blood around blockages in arteries to restore blood flow and improve circulation.
How We Can Help Improve Circulation At Home
Good circulation is vital in order for your body to function properly, to keep you well and to reduce your risk of developing conditions that are linked to poor circulation. There are some things you can try at home that you may find help with any circulation problems you may have, which will also help you live a healthier life.
- Stay hydrated – ensuring you are drinking enough can be helpful for your circulation. However, if you have been told by your doctor or nurse to only drink a certain amount during the day, be sure to discuss increasing your fluid intake with them if you would like to increase it.
- Eat a healthy diet – a balanced diet helps to reduce risk of heart and circulatory diseases, it can reduce cholesterol, blood-pressure and prevent other factors, such as being overweight, that increase the likelihood of heart and circulatory diseases. A healthy diet should include plenty of fruit and vegetables, high fibre and wholegrain starchy foods and some lean meat, fish or vegetarian sources of protein as well as reduced fat dairy products or plant-based alternatives., it should also have low levels of sugar, salt and saturated fat.
- Stop smoking – if you smoke, quitting is the most important way to improve your heart health and reduce your risk of heart and circulatory diseases. The harmful chemicals in cigarettes, such as carbon monoxide, tar and nicotine make the walls of your arteries sticky and this is where fatty materials get stuck. This process can cause damage and if there is a blockage in the artery from the build-up of fatty materials, it can increase your risk of heart attack or stroke.
- Regular exercise – staying active and exercising regularly is key to heart and circulatory health. Not only can it help reduce the risk of conditions that can lead to poor circulation, it can also improve symptoms and reduce discomfort of those living with them. From simple exercises every morning to chair-based exercises, regularly swimming or perhaps a brisk walk, regular exercise strengthens your heart and reduces blood pressure, alongside making you feel physically fitter.
- Elevating your legs when resting – use a cushion or footrest to keep your legs and feet elevated whilst sitting for long periods of time. Elevation can help reduce swelling in your feet, ankles and legs (known as peripheral oedema) and promote healthy circulation.
- Maintaining a healthy weight – having obesity increases your risk of high blood pressure and developing type 2 diabetes, which impact your heart and circulatory health. It can be difficult to maintain a healthy weight, especially with increasingly busy lives, but keeping in mind factors such as portion control and meal planning can make it easier and more sustainable long term.
A Helping Hand…
Over the last 60 years, research funded by the British Heart foundation has helped transform the lives of those living with heart and circulatory conditions. And through future research, they hope to see more cures and treatments and to ultimately beat heartbreak forever.
If you need a helping hand to live well with a heart and circulatory condition or would simply like some support with keeping healthy at home, Helping Hands provide dedicated care at home that is tailored to your needs and lifestyle. We know that heart health comes in many different forms, which is why we’ll work alongside your healthcare professionals to deliver the very best support in the comfort of your own home.
For more information, please call 0330 029 8699 or request a callback and we will call you.