A strong circulatory system is key to healthy feet and hands. It keeps your extremities warm on cold days and helps the movement of lactic acids and lymph fluids. Improving circulation is a common theme throughout my articles but today I want it to be the focal point. I will cover some causes of poor circulation and how to improve circulation in your hands and feet especially.
Causes of Poor Circulation
As with most things there is not just one reason why you may have poor circulation. Understanding some of the causes could help your overall health.
The risks of smoking are no secret. The FDA requires that every package of cigarettes carry the Surgeon General’s warning label. The label warns about cancer, heart disease, emphysema, and complications with pregnancy. What it doesn’t warn you about are the specific effects on your circulation.
Smoking causes plaque to build up in your blood vessels, which then harden. This process, atherosclerosis, limits the amount of oxygen that gets through to your extremities. The blood vessels in your hands and feet are smaller thereby making it even harder for them to get oxygen-rich blood.
The NIH adds, “Smoking also is a major risk factor for peripheral artery disease (P.A.D.). P.A.D. is a condition in which plaque builds up in the arteries that carry blood to the head, organs, and limbs.” Inhibited blood flow also increases your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.
This is a common cause of feeling cold much of the time, especially in the hands and feet. Testing should include a complete thyroid profile, not just a TSH. Hypothyroidism is generally easy to diagnose and treat. At our Integrative Medical Center, we use only natural thyroid replacement.
Lack of Health and Fitness
Your general health and fitness can play a huge part in circulation. A diet high in fat and refined sugars increases risk of diabetes and high blood pressure. These ailments can cause poor circulation. Insufficient blood flow in your hands and especially your feet can put you at risk for infection, amputation, and even death due to complications.
Sitting Too Much
Many people aim for a desk job at some point in their careers but it can be both good and bad. It’s nice that you don’t have to stand all day, but it also limits your daily movement. Your body requires movement to optimally move oxygen and blood to your extremities.
Crossing your legs at the knees cuts off circulation to your legs and feet. This causes varicose veins and poor circulation in your feet. When sitting for long periods sit with both feet flat on the ground. If you feel the need to change your position cross your ankles instead.
Raynaud’s is a common vascular disorder but it isn’t widely discussed. With this disorder, blood vessels near the skin narrow. It can affect any area of the body but most often the fingers and toes. The affected area will feel cold or numb, generally in response to cold or stress.
Improve Circulation to Your Hands and Feet Today
If you want to improve circulation in your hands and feet I have good news. Improvements can start today!
Diet and Exercise
Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables is a natural place to start. Changing when you eat can also make a huge difference. Eating smaller, more frequent meals helps you maintain a steadier energy level so that your body isn’t spending as much energy keeping your core warm.
Exercising improves your circulation in your hands and feet. I encourage you to get 30-60 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week at minimum. If you would like an exercise that specifically targets your hands, however, try this:
Shake out your hands to keep the muscles and joints loose. You can shake them side to side and up and down. Next, hold out your hands and make a tight fist. Hold it for 10-15 seconds then repeat 5-10 times. To increase intensity add a stress-ball or crumple up a piece of paper.
Finally, stretch out your fingers, bend each joint in your digits one by one and hold each position. Be careful not to bend to the point that it’s uncomfortable or it hurts. That could cause further injury.
Quitting is not easy. However, the sooner you make the commitment to yourself and your loved ones the sooner you can start living a healthier life. While the long term effects of smoking may not completely go away you can start improving your circulatory health right away.
The Power of Touch
Self-care is a great way to increase circulation. Massage offers numerous benefits including improved circulation. It reduces stress, also a factor of poor circulation, increases blood flow, and releases the lactic acids from your muscles.
Try dry brushing your skin as well. Use a brush with natural bristles to slough off dead skin all over your body. Start at your feet, making circular motions with the bristles and work your way up to the heart. You’ll find that this not only improves your circulation but also helps keep your skin nice and soft
Believe it or not, placing your cold feet on your partner is actually a good way of increasing blood flow. Just try not to be too cruel, and maybe give a warning before placing your icy feet on them.
Consume Coffee, and Dark Chocolate
That’s right! Coffee and dark chocolate, in moderation, can actually help improve circulation. They are natural vasodilators and can improve blood flow to your hands and feet. Other natural vasodilators include pomegranate, garlic, beets, green tea, spinach and walnuts.
Even with a balanced diet, a lack of certain nutrients can cause poor circulation. Lack of vitamin D3 stiffen arteries and make it difficult for vessels to relax. If that’s the case then I suggest trying Diamond Nutritionals’ Vitamin D3 5000 or Vitamin K2 with D3. Of course, before starting any vitamin regimen you should speak with your doctor and get tested for any deficiencies.
If you’d like to begin a natural supplement program to help improve blood flow in your hands and feet make an appointment so that we can discuss which supplements are best to improve your circulation.