Circulation is the process of the heart pumping blood around the body. Good circulation is vital to a person’s health. Although circulation is largely an automatic process, there are some ways to improve it.

As the blood circulates the body, it delivers oxygen-rich blood to the brain and other tissues and removes waste products. It also brings oxygen-poor blood from the brain and body back to the lungs for reoxygenation.

This article discusses several research-backed ways to improve circulation.

A man running to improve circulation.Share on Pinterest
Hayden Scott/500px/Getty Images

For people looking to improve their circulation, there are some first steps to take. These include:

Below, we provide more detail on the ways to improve circulation.

Maintaining a moderate weight helps promote good circulation. Carrying excess body weight may negatively affect circulation.

Although everyone needs some fat to remain healthy, too much can lead to a buildup of fat in the arteries. Visceral fat, which sits around the internal organs, can prevent the body from using insulin correctly, leading to arterial damage.

Increase physical activity

Regular cardiovascular exercise, such as jogging, supports the circulatory system’s health and improves circulation.

A 2018 study notes that regular cardiovascular exercise is associated with improved cardiovascular performance and lower blood pressure. This is because this type of exercise improves the body’s ability to take in and use oxygen. It also improves the capacity of blood vessels to dilate, which helps them work more efficiently, allowing the muscles to receive oxygen more easily.

Exercise can improve circulation and make daily activities less tiring.

Learn about 20 cardio exercises to try at home.

Practice yoga

Yoga is a low impact form of exercise that is easy to modify for beginners. It involves bending, stretching, and twisting. These movements can help compress and decompress a person’s veins, improving circulation.

Yoga postures can improve flexibility, balance, and heart health.

A simple yoga position for beginners to try is the downward-facing dog. This helps improve circulation by putting the hips and heart above the head, allowing gravity to increase blood flow toward the head.

To do the downward-facing dog, a person should follow these steps:

  • Start on all fours, with the shoulders above the wrists and the hips above the knees.
  • Breathe in.
  • Push the hips back and up into the air while exhaling.
  • Straighten the arms and legs.
  • Press firmly into the hands and relax the neck, shoulders, and ankles.
  • Breathe deeply, lifting and pressing down each heel in turn to deepen the stretch.
  • Stay in the position for three deep breaths.
  • Slowly lower the hips and return to the starting position.

Learn more basic yoga poses.

Eat oily fish

The omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish promote cardiovascular health and improve circulation, according to this 2016 study.

Oily fish include:

  • salmon
  • mackerel
  • sardines
  • tuna

Vegetarians and vegans can opt for kale, which provides a small quantity of omega-3 fatty acids.

Supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids are another option for people who do not eat fish.

Learn about the best omega-3 supplements.

Drink tea

The antioxidants in tea promote cardiovascular health and may improve circulation. This is true for both black tea and green tea.

A 2017 study found that black tea improves blood vessel health. Healthy blood vessels help improve circulation.

Another study found that green tea consumption is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular health issues.

Keep iron levels balanced

Iron is an essential mineral for the circulatory system. The body needs it to make hemoglobin, which is one of the major components of red blood cells and is responsible for carrying oxygen around the body.

Eating foods rich in iron, such as red meat or spinach, helps the body get enough of this essential mineral. However, maintaining a healthy balance is also necessary, as too much iron may negatively affect cardiovascular health.

A 2016 study found a link between insufficient iron in the body and iron-restricted erythropoiesis with anemia. However, too much iron can lead to tissue iron overload and other conditions.

Wear compression socks

Compression socks apply pressure to the calves and lower legs, forcing blood in that part of the leg to flow upward. They help create a continuous flow of blood throughout the circulatory system.

A doctor may prescribe them for conditions such as varicose veins and lymphedema. They may also improve circulation.

Stop smoking

According to the American Cancer Society, circulation improves and lung function increases within 2 weeks to 3 months of quitting smoking.

Just 1–12 months after quitting, tiny hair-like structures within the lungs, called cilia, begin to regain function and move mucus out of the lungs.

In addition, 1–2 years after stopping smoking, the risk of heart attack drops drastically.

Learn more about what happens after quitting smoking.

The health of a person’s circulatory system determines how well the blood circulates the body. The factors that affect this include:

Blood pressure

Blood pressure is the pressure that the blood places on the walls of the blood vessels as it circulates. Blood pressure measurements include readings of systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. Systolic pressure is the pressure when the heart is beating, and diastolic pressure is the pressure between heartbeats.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), a normal resting blood pressure in an adult is less than 120 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) systolic and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic. The abbreviation for this is 120/80 mm Hg.

People with very low blood pressure may experience poor circulation and other related symptoms. However, having a lower blood pressure measurement is not usually a cause for concern in people with a healthy cardiovascular system.

Blood health

The blood carries oxygen and nutrients to the cells and removes waste. It performs these functions most effectively when it is healthy.

Healthy blood has the right balance of red blood cells, which carry oxygen, white blood cells, and platelets. The body makes all of these components in the bone marrow. An imbalance in these components may affect blood circulation.

Heart health

The heart is the muscle responsible for pumping the blood around the body. The stronger and healthier a person’s heart is, the better their circulation.

Blood vessel health

Healthy veins and arteries are easier for blood to pass through. Excessively high cholesterol levels can injure and block blood vessels.

Poor circulation may be a symptom of other underlying health conditions. These include:

Exercise and other measures to promote cardiovascular health may reduce the poor circulation that these conditions cause.

If blood flow slows to a certain part of a person’s body, they may experience symptoms of poor circulation.

These symptoms mainly occur in the arms or legs but can affect other parts of the body. They include:

  • tingling
  • swelling
  • cognitive issues
  • skin changes
  • digestive problems
  • fatigue
  • cramp
  • erectile dysfunction in males
  • skin color or hydration changes

Anyone who experiences the symptoms of poor circulation should speak with a doctor. A doctor can help diagnose the problem and suggest treatment for any underlying conditions.

In addition, they may recommend eating a nutritious diet, exercising regularly, and quitting smoking to improve circulation.

Read this article in Spanish.