Proper circulation is key for maintaining optimal health. It ensures that blood and oxygen continuously flow throughout the body, allowing every organ to function properly. It helps to heal wounds faster, it keeps your brain sharp, it keeps your heart healthy, and it even gives your complexion a natural flush.
“Circulation can also affect the immune system, as certain blood cells, carried by the bloodstream, help to fight infection,” says Marjan Moghaddam, D.O., a family medicine physician with Henry Ford Health.
During a time when the cold, flu and COVID-19 are prevalent, it’s especially important to make sure your circulation is up to par. There are, however, certain conditions that can make maintaining proper circulation more difficult.
What Leads To Poor Circulation
“Peripheral artery disease (when narrowed arteries reduce blood flow), obesity, anemia, untreated blood clots, uncontrolled diabetes and high blood pressure can all affect circulation,” says Dr. Moghaddam. “Smoking can also lead to poor circulation.”
If you think you may have poor circulation, take note of any of the below symptoms:
- Lack of energy or concentration
- Cold extremities (hands and feet)
- Thinning hair or hair loss
- Delayed or slow healing due to a weakened immune system
- In men, erectile dysfunction
What You Can Do To Boost Your Circulation
The good news is there are several things you can do to get your blood pumping. Try any of the below:
- Increase cardiovascular exercise. Running, biking or walking can help boost circulation—and the same goes for stretching before and after exercising.
- If you smoke, quit. Smoking can inhibit blood flow, destroy blood vessel walls, and cause plaque to accumulate in the veins. “The sooner you quit smoking, the sooner your health will improve,” says Dr. Moghaddam.
- Drink black or green tea. “The antioxidants in these drinks help to increase the width of the blood vessels so that your body can pump blood more easily,” says Dr. Moghaddam.
- If you are anemic, take iron supplements or eat iron-rich food. When you are low in iron (or anemic), you don’t have enough red blood cells to circulate oxygen throughout your body. Talk to your doctor to see if an iron supplement is right for you, or incorporate iron-rich spinach, legumes, and red meat (in moderation) into your diet.
- Dry brush your body. Before a shower or bath, try this technique to stimulate blood flow: Using a soft-bristle brush, gently brush your skin in long, upward strokes. “Make sure to start at your feet and move up to your heart,” says Dr. Moghaddam.
- Decrease stress. “This can be done with meditation, yoga, or by spending time with loved ones safely in person or virtually,” says Dr. Moghaddam.
- Include more omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. “Fish like tuna, salmon and sardines can help improve blood flow and are excellent for heart health,” says Dr. Moghaddam. Try eating them two to three times per week.
- Wear compression socks and elevate your legs. Elevating your legs will help move blood to the upper body, and compression socks put pressure on your feet to help blood vessels push blood through the body up to your heart. They can also help reduce swelling and can be beneficial for those who are pregnant, those have diabetes or those who are standing on their feet all day. (Consider this your permission to relax after a long day of work!)
To find a doctor at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).
Marjan Moghaddam, D.O., is a family medicine physician who sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Center in Capitol Park and Harbortown.