Your circulatory system doesn’t rest. It’s in action every second of your life but is paid little attention unless you have a bad cut or need a transfusion. Five to six liters of blood are moving continuously throughout your body. If it can’t easily get where it needs to go, your body will tell you with very clear signs of poor circulation.
Why You Should Care About Poor Blood Circulation…
We may take the red stuff that runs through us for granted but it actually does quite a lot as it works through the circulatory system:
- supplies oxygen to cells and tissues
- provides nutrients to cells, such as amino acids, fatty acids, and glucose
- removes waste, such as carbon dioxide, urea, and lactic acid
- protects the body from infection, foreign bodies, and disease by virtue of white blood cells
- transports hormones from one part of the body to another, transmitting messages and completing important processes
- regulates acidity (pH) levels and body temperature
- engorges parts of the body when needed.
There are four ingredients in blood:
- platelets – responsible for coagulation
- red blood cells – pick up oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen from—and release carbon dioxide to—the lungs; by transporting hydrogen, red blood cells help to regulate pH levels
- white blood cells – produced in bone marrow and lymph nodes, these make up less than one percent of blood content; they are responsible for fighting infection and producing antibodies and histamines
- plasma – makes up fifty-five percent of blood and is comprised mostly of water; it transports carbon dioxide, glucose, hormones, proteins, fats, vitamins, and mineral salts throughout the body.
Platelets and red and white blood cells are produced in bone marrow while plasma comes from ingested food in the intestines.
Because of all that blood does, it’s therefore critical that the circulatory system is working optimally to get it where it needs to go.
5 Signs of Poor Circulation
Some organs are blood supply-dependent (the amount of blood carried to them depends on the need of the organ at the moment, e.g., lungs and heart); others are supply-independent (a constant supply of blood is needed, e.g., brain and kidneys). (1)
“When cardiovascular function is compromised, circulatory compensations are aimed at maintaining supply-dependent tissues. In the long term, this leads to the possibility of an inadequate blood flow to supply independent tissues. The perfusion maintenance of all organs requires adequate cardiac output, blood volume, and arterial BP. When BP and cardiac output fail, regional perfusion diminishes.” (2)
If nutrients and oxygen carried through the blood don’t flow properly, you can expect one or more of the following symptoms of poor circulation.
1. Reduced Brain Performance
The brain needs fifteen to twenty percent of your entire blood supply to work. (3) If there’s poor circulation and not enough blood gets to the brain, you may experience lapses in memory or lax cognition.
One study showed that if the heart doesn’t pump blood fast enough, a consequence is decreased blood flow to the brain. (4) Over time, inadequate blood supply can result in dementia, other cognitive decline, and advanced aging of the brain in general. (5) Decreased blood supply to the brain can also lead to stuttering and other impairments. (6)
One way to improve blood circulations is by exercising regularly. (7)
2. Cold Hands and Feet
Poor circulation is most evident in the extremities. Cold or numbness, wounds that take a long time to heal, brittle toe nails, or bluish or cracked skin of the feet and hands can indicate they’re not getting enough blood. Diabetics especially often experience poor circulation, causing pain and sometimes disability of the feet. (8)
Just as it’s hard to go about your day if you don’t eat, on the microscopic level, cells don’t function well if they don’t receive the nutrition and oxygen they need. Your body automatically prioritizes the processes that have the greatest need for blood (like the brain and heart) and can cut back on the supply to other organs and bodily systems. Sore muscles, shortness of breath, and general fatigue is one of the most common signs of poor circulation.
4. Lack of Appetite
Poor blood circulation can affect the digestive system, starting with the liver and extending into the intestines. The liver filters the blood and is also nourished by it.
Additionally, blood flow is important to the entire digestive tract, as plasma is created there and picks up nutrients to deliver to the rest of the body.Reduction in appetite or sudden weight loss can signal poor blood flow because the digestive system doesn’t have the energy to work as hard as it must to break down food. This may cause you to feel full despite eating small meals.
While this may sound attractive, your body still needs a certain amount of calories and essential nutrients each day to maintain good health, so not eating enough can lead to other problems. Further, you may feel nauseous and experience other digestive woes. (9)
5. Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are the most obvious physical signs of poor circulation. There are valves in veins that regulate blood flow so that it goes in only one direction—toward the heart. These valves can become weakened and leak, allowing oxygen-poor blood to flow in the wrong direction.
This causes the veins to swell and can become visible through the skin. Spider veins reflect the same scenario on a smaller scale. Varicose veins are often harmless, however, they do indicate a greater risk for more serious circulatory problems. (10)
How to Improve Circulation
Regular exercise and movement are at the top of the list. Others include:
- acupuncture (11)
- bee pollen
- cold showers
- dark chocolate – in moderation (12)
- foam rolling (13)
- herbs and spices: aloe vera, basil, cinnamon, red ginseng, gingko biloba, nutmeg, rosemary
- maintain a healthy weight
- massage therapy (14)
- peppermint essential oil
- quitting smoking (15)
- sleeping on your left side.
Your blood feeds and cleanses every system in your body. You have to make sure you’re doing what you can to go with the flow and avoid these signs of poor circulation!