As the blood circulates, it delivers oxygen and nutrients to the body's cells and takes away waste products.
This article discusses six ways to improve circulation that are supported by scientific evidence.
How to improve circulation
Avoiding a sedentary lifestyle may help to improve circulation. Jogging and avoiding sitting still for too long are both steps to take.
If a person wants to improve their circulation, there are some obvious places to start. These include:
- stopping smoking tobacco products
- reducing intake of saturated fats
- trying not to sit still for long periods
In addition, trying one or more of the following may help improve circulation:
1. Maintaining a healthy weight
Maintaining a healthy weight helps promote good circulation. If a person is overweight, it may negatively affect their circulation.
A 2009 study found that losing weight improved circulation for women who were overweight. The participants increased their levels of a protein called adiponectin that is associated with vascular function.
Regular cardiovascular exercise, such as jogging, supports the health of the circulatory system and improves circulation.
A 2003 review noted that 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.
These benefits of exercise improve circulation and mean that daily activities may be less tiring.
3. Practicing yoga
Yoga is a low-impact exercise that is easy to modify for beginners. It involves bending, stretching, and twisting. These movements can help to compress and decompress a person's veins, which may improve circulation.
A 2014 review of evidence published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found yoga was beneficial for the cardiovascular system and a person's metabolism.
A simple yoga position for beginners to try is the downward-facing dog. This helps improve circulation as it puts the hips and heart above the head, allowing gravity to increase blood flow towards the head.
To do the downward-facing dog, a person should:
- start on all fours, with shoulders above wrists, and hips above knees
- breathe in
- push hips backward and up into the air while exhaling
- straighten the arms and legs
- press firmly into the hands
- breathe deeply, lifting and pressing down each heel in turn to deepen the stretch
- let the neck relax
- stay in position for three deep breaths
- slowly lower hips back into starting position
4. Eating oily fish
Oily fish include:
For those who are vegetarian or vegan, kale contains a small amount of omega-3 fatty acid.
Supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids are another option for people who do not eat fish.
5. Drinking tea
A 2001 study, published in the journal Circulation, found that black tea improves blood vessel health. Healthy blood vessels help improve circulation.
6. Keeping iron levels balanced
Iron is an essential mineral for the circulatory system. It is required to make hemoglobin, one of the major components of red blood cells, which is needed to carry oxygen.
Eating foods rich in iron, such as red meat or spinach, helps the body maintain this essential mineral. However, maintaining a healthful balance is necessary as well.
Too much iron may negatively affect cardiovascular health. A 2013 study found a link between having too much iron in the body and cardiovascular disease in people with high cholesterol and higher waist circumference measurements.
Causes and risk factors
Low blood pressure may affect circulation.
The health of a person's circulatory system determines how well the blood circulates through their body. The factors that affect this include:
Blood pressure is the pressure of the blood on the walls of the blood vessels as it circulates. Blood pressure is measured by "systolic" pressure over "diastolic" pressure.
Systolic pressure is the pressure on the blood vessel wall during the heartbeat when the lower chambers of the heart are pumping blood forward.
Diastolic pressure is the pressure on the blood vessel wall when the lower chambers of the heart are at rest and filling with blood.
According to the American Heart Association, a normal resting blood pressure in an adult is no more than 120 millimeters (mm) of mercury (Hg) systolic and no more than 80 mm for diastolic. This is abbreviated to 120/80 mmHg.
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.
The blood carries oxygen and nutrients and removes waste and does these jobs best when it is healthy.
Healthy blood has the right levels of normal red blood cells, which carry oxygen, white blood cells, and platelets. These components are all made in the bone marrow.
The heart is the muscle responsible for pumping a person's blood around their body. The stronger and healthier a person's heart is, the better their circulation.
Blood vessel health
Having healthy veins and arteries makes it easier for the blood to pass through them. If a person's lipid or fat or their cholesterol levels are too high or low, the blood vessels can become injured and blocked.
Poor circulation may be a symptom of other underlying health conditions. These include:
Exercise and other measures to promote cardiovascular health may reduce poor circulation caused by these conditions.
Signs and symptoms poor circulation
Numbness, tingling, and pain in the arms or legs may be symptoms of poor circulation.
If blood flow is reduced to a certain part of a person's body, they may experience the signs and symptoms of poor circulation.
The following symptoms mainly occur in the arms or legs. They include:
- warmth or coolness
When to see a doctor
If a person experiences the symptoms of poor circulation, it is important that they speak to a doctor. A doctor can help diagnose what might be the problem and suggest treatment for any underlying conditions.
In addition, they may suggest eating a healthful diet, exercising regularly, and quitting smoking to improve circulation.