Are you constantly cold? Do your legs swell when you’ve been on them too much? Are your feet and hands always going numb?
These could be symptoms of poor circulation.
Poor blood circulation is not a condition on its own, but can be a manifestation of a broader health problem. Every part of the body relies on a healthy circulatory system to keep your organs property properly supplied with oxygen. Unfortunately, poor circulation often goes undetected for many years until symptoms occur, usually at late stages of the disease.
It can be critical to know the symptoms of poor circulation, the conditions it could be alerting you to, and what you can do to improve your circulation.
Vital Heart & Vein is here to help:
Symptoms of Poor Circulation
Symptoms of poor circulation are often easy to spot. They include muscle cramping, constant foot pain, and pain and throbbing in the arms and legs. As well as fatigue, varicose veins, and digestive issues.
Leg cramps while walking and wounds that don’t seem to heal in your legs, feet, and toes are also symptoms. Cognitive dysfunction such as confusion or memory loss can happen because of a lack of blood and oxygen to the brain.
Your fingers, hands, arms, legs, feet, and toes are considered your extremities. Your extremities can display tingling or numbness, swelling, and heaviness. Poor circulation can even lead to gangrene of the extremities, which is the death of body tissue, which can potentially lead to amputation in severe cases.
When blood isn’t flowing properly, your extremities will fluctuate in temperature. The restricted blood flow is what causes the numbness, and the blood not being able to return to the heart properly can cause swelling.
Your skin might also appear pale or blue because of a lack of blood flow.
These are all signs that the blood isn’t moving correctly throughout your body. Your organs might not be getting the nutrients they need.
Everyone’s legs or arms go numb every now and then, but when these are experienced persistently and daily, you should see a medical professional to help determine the cause.
How Does the Circulatory System Work?
Your circulatory system is made up of blood vessels that carry blood to and from the heart.
Arteries carry oxygen, hormones, and nutrients in the blood from your heart to the rest of your body. Veins are what return the blood back to the heart, carrying carbon dioxide and other waste. Valves in the veins keep the blood going in the right direction.
All of your blood vessels can be considered one-way-only, blood only flows in one direction. They must work in unison to ensure that all of your organs are working the way that they should.
What Causes Poor Circulation?
There are many diseases of the circulatory system, it is important to figure out if your poor circulation is a symptom of something more serious.
It is crucial to find the cause behind poor blood circulation. The condition or disease needs to be treated, rather than only treating the symptoms.
The most common vascular diseases, also known as diseases of the circulatory system, are discussed in the following sections.
Peripheral Artery Disease
Unhealthy cholesterol levels can lead to atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis can then lead to Peripheral Artery Disease. Fat and plaque buildup in the blood vessels and arteries can cause blood clots.
Peripheral Artery Disease is when there is a blockage in one of the major arteries limiting blood flow to the. Body’s organs and limbs.
Patients who have diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol have a higher risk for Peripheral Artery Disease. Smokers have a much higher risk of developing Peripheral Artery Disease than those who do not smoke. Patients who also have pre-existing coronary artery disease or kidney failure are also at an increased risk.
Treatments for Peripheral Artery Disease can be as simple as a proper diet and exercise regimen. Treatments also include taking blood pressure medications, stopping smoking, treating existing diabetes, or taking anti-platelet agents such as aspirin.
If left untreated, Peripheral Artery Disease can lead to serious leg pain, which indicates a blood clot. It can also lead to the reduced ability to walk, gangrene, and result in amputation. Blood clots in the legs can be life-threatening, it’s important to try and prevent the condition from reaching this point.
Peripheral Artery Disease can increase your risk for a heart attack. Atherosclerosis is the most common cause of a heart attack.
If you believe you may be suffering from symptoms of Peripheral Artery Disease, a vascular specialist can help you determine the right treatment option. These treatments can include medications, minimally invasive intervention, or possibly surgery.
Another important area of Peripheral Artery Disease is atherosclerosis of the carotid arteries. These are the arteries that supply blood to your brain. These arteries start at the base of your neck and lead upwards toward the brain. Blockages in these arteries can lead to a stroke.
Signs of a stroke are weakness in the arm or leg, paralysis, blindness in one or both of the eyes, facial droop, and difficulty speaking. Patients with risk factors for Peripheral Artery Disease are also at risk for carotid disease.
It is important that if you have risk factors for carotid disease that you see a medical professional. A simple diagnosis can be made by ultrasound testing and treatment can start.
If you have a severe plaque build-up, a vascular surgeon can treat this problem. This will be through surgery or the placement of a stent to help treat the blockage and prevent a stroke.
Venous diseases are a disease which damages valves in your veins. These diseases can prevent blood from flowing the correct way in your body. There are many venous diseases, but two of the most common are Chronic Venous Insufficiency and Varicose Veins.
Chronic Venous Insufficiency
Chronic Venous Insufficiency is when the walls of the veins in the legs don’t work well. The veins then have a hard time returning blood back to the heart.
One treatment for Chronic Venous Insufficiency is Sclerotherapy, which will close the veins. This way the blood will return to the heart through veins that work well. This is a short, non-invasive procedure, you will be able to resume daily activities quickly.
Varicose veins happen when there is damage to the valves within your veins. These appear as swollen dark-colored veins that are visible just beneath the skin’s surface and are most commonly found in the legs. Swollen veins cause blood to flow less efficiently, which leads to poor circulation.
Varicose veins can be treated with an Ambulatory Phlebectomy. This procedure takes about an hour, and the patient will be able to walk immediately after.
An aneurysm refers to a part of an artery or blood vessel that has become unsafely enlarged due to weakened vascular walls. The biggest threat of an aneurysm is its ability to rupture. This can be almost immediately fatal depending on where the aneurysm is. Even in less severe cases, they can lead to internal bleeding and a stroke.
Most patients don’t know they have an aneurysm until it has ruptured. Sometimes they can be found accidentally. Smoking significantly increases your risk of developing aneurysm, especially abdominal aorta (the major blood vessel that supplies your intestines and lower extremities). If you are over the age of 65 and have ever smoked, a simple ultrasound can be done to assess for abdominal aneurysms. It is also common for aneurysms to be located in the brain, behind the knee, in the intestine, and in the spleen.
If you are diagnosed with an aneurysm, a vascular surgeon can treat it and help prevent it from rupturing. Most aneurysms can be fixed without major surgery and most patients are able to return to normal daily life in just a few days.
A blood clot can occur when any blood vessel in the body has a blockage. The blood turns to a semisolid form from its typical liquid form. A blood clot can be detrimental if it dislodges and becomes mobile within your circulatory system.
If a blood clot travels to your lungs, it can cause a pulmonary embolism. If a blood clot travels to your heart, it can cause a heart attack. A blood clot that travels to the brain typically causes a stroke.
While a blood clot can dissolve on its own, this is not always the case. Blood clots don’t always become mobile, but it is important that you keep your circulation optimal so blood clots do not form.
If you have pain, swelling, tenderness, a warm sensation, and a reddish discoloration in your legs or arms, you should seek medical attention.
Other Conditions and Causes
Diabetes and Raynaud’s disease are all conditions that cause symptoms of poor blood circulation. While these aren’t circulatory diseases, they are still conditions that need to be taken seriously.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is usually the result of poor diet and exercise. Hypertension can be a warning sign for declining vascular health and should be treated as such.
Maintaining an inactive lifestyle and obesity can also cause poor circulation, as well as your age. People over the age of 65 tend to have poor blood circulation. This is most likely because of the more sedentary lifestyle that a lot of seniors lead.
It is important to improve your circulation so that your body works properly through self-care or treatment.
How to Improve Blood Circulation
Poor blood circulation can be improved with regular appropriate diet and exercise.
Exercise helps move blood around your body and therefore helps improve circulation. Specific yoga poses can help aid your body in returning blood to the heart more efficiently. Downward Dog, Warrior II, and Legs up the wall are the most advised, but almost any yoga pose can help.
Staying hydrated is an easy way to improve circulation. You should aim to drink 84 oz of water a day, more or less depending on your lifestyle, age, and weight.
Eliminating processed foods and eating more whole grains and vegetables is good for your circulation as well as the rest of your body. It is suggested that a vegan diet can improve your circulation, be sure to consult your doctor before making any major diet change.
Adding foods and spices to your diet such as cayenne pepper, beets, berries, fish, and any other iron-rich foods has been shown to improve vascular health.
Managing stress, not smoking, and even getting regular massages can help improve circulation.
Exercises to improve circulation include walking, biking, swimming, push-ups, and weight training. Any exercise that raises your heart rate will help improve your vascular health and overall body health.
Your doctor may have specific therapies or life changes in mind. You should always consult your physician before making any major alterations to your lifestyle.
To repeat, one of the most dangerous results of poor blood circulation is blood clots. Blood clots can be fatal if they are not caught in time. If you think you have any of the above-mentioned conditions, it is important you contact a medical professional as soon as possible.
Do not hesitate to seek immediate emergency medical attention if you are experiencing symptoms of a blood clot or stroke.
Vital Heart & Vein has many diagnostic testing capabilities and vascular procedures that can be used to diagnose and treat a variety of circulatory diseases. Our goal is to offer you individualized and accessible treatment options.
You will see one of our esteemed Board-Certified Cardiologists or Vascular Surgeons, who will look at your symptoms and do tests to determine where your symptoms of poor blood circulation are coming from and how to best treat the issue. We will come up with the best treatments, therapies, and/or procedures for your diagnosis.
Request an appointment with Vital Heart & Vein today, we can help you get back to your best self.