Poor circulation results from inadequate blood flow to one or more bodily areas. Your circulatory system moves blood, nutrients and oxygen throughout the body. When circulation to a specific region is reduced, it can cause symptoms like numbness and tingling, swelling, muscle cramps and skin discoloration.
Thankfully, boosting your blood flow can be simple with the right methods. Learn how to improve circulation in your legs, arms and other body parts in this complete guide.
Causes of Poor Circulation
Improper circulation can stem from a variety of factors, from sedentary habits to underlying medical conditions. Some common causes of weak circulation include:
Blood clots: Blood clots are clumps of blood that partially or completely block healthy blood flow. While they can accumulate nearly anywhere in the body, clots in the legs or arms, in particular, can cause circulation problems.
Peripheral artery disease (PAD): PAD causes the arteries to narrow and reduces blood flow over time, specifically in the legs.
Varicose veins: Varicose veins are bulging, twisted veins with a dark purple or blue appearance. They develop when veins and valves stop functioning properly, causing blood to pool and collect in the legs instead of traveling upward.
Diabetes: Consistently high blood glucose levels can develop fatty deposits within the blood vessels. Over time, these deposits can harden and narrow the vessels, decreasing circulation in the legs, arms, hands and feet.
Raynaud syndrome: Raynaud syndrome causes coldness and numbness in the fingers and toes, usually in response to cold temperatures or stress. The condition causes the small arteries in your hands and feet to narrow temporarily, limiting blood flow.
Deep vein thrombosis: Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when a thrombus — or blood clot — develops in the deep veins of the legs. It often forms when a person does not move for long durations, such as bed rest or traveling. DVT becomes more severe when the blood clots break loose, get stuck in the lungs and prevent blood flow, also known as a pulmonary embolism.
Atherosclerosis: Atherosclerosis occurs when plaque — the buildup of cholesterol, fats and other substances — accumulates inside and around the artery walls, reducing blood flow. Plaque can cause arteries to narrow over time. It can also rupture, potentially resulting in a blood clot.
People who smoke, are above age 40, have high blood pressure and live sedentary lifestyles are also more likely to have poor circulation.
Why Improve Circulation?
Blood circulation impacts every cell in the body. Blood travels through the vessels, sending nutrients and oxygen to every organ and system. Arteries carry blood away from the heart and to the rest of the body, then veins move blood back to the heart. Think of it like a highway system. Each component works together to keep the blood flowing and maintain optimal body function.
Proper circulation also provides the following benefits:
Boosts the immune system and infection-fighting abilities
Helps wounds heal faster
Supports brain function
Keeps the heart healthy
How to Improve Circulation Naturally
If you are wondering how to increase blood flow in your legs naturally, below are some simple remedies for improving circulation.
When you are dehydrated, your body decreases blood circulation to store energy. Your heart beats faster to compensate, elevating your heart rate and blood pressure. Your blood also retains more sodium when you are dehydrated, thickening your blood and complicating circulation. Drinking plenty of water makes it easier for your heart to pump blood and helps oxygen reach the muscles.
2. Wear Compression Stockings
Compression stockings are long socks designed to prevent swelling and blood clots by gently compressing the muscles in your legs and ankles. These garments are ideal if you have poor circulation in your legs and feet, or when you are traveling or sitting for extended periods. While compression stockings cannot cure varicose veins, they can help manage the discomfort associated with them.
Compression stockings are affordable and widely available at pharmacies with no prescription required. Try elevating your legs while wearing compression socks to enhance circulation further.
Regular physical activity — particularly aerobic exercise — is a fantastic way to improve your circulation and overall health. It gets the heart pumping more efficiently, increases blood flow and helps flush blood through your arteries.
Some great exercises for your veins include running, walking and biking. You can also try lower-impact activities like swimming and yoga. Strength training exercises like lifting weights are another excellent circulation booster.
4. Drink Green or Black Tea
Green and black tea contain powerful antioxidants — specifically epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) — that increase blood vessel width, help blood pump more easily, and prevent plaque buildup and atherosclerosis in the arteries. Just remember to drink responsibly and watch your caffeine intake.
5. Avoid Smoking
The chemicals in cigarette smoke cause swollen and inflamed cells around the blood vessels. This can narrow the vessels, possibly leading to a variety of cardiovascular diseases. All tobacco products — even smokeless tobacco — can thicken your blood and damage artery walls.
6. Get a Massage
A massage is a natural remedy for relaxation and better blood flow. It helps release built-up pressure in a specific bodily area. This makes it easier for oxygenated blood to flow to that region, promoting healthy circulation.
7. Take a Bath
Taking a warm bath can help improve circulation to your feet and increase blood flow throughout the body. Enhanced circulation is one of the many benefits of hydrotherapy. The warm water helps expand your veins and arteries, creating more room for blood flow. Make sure the water is not too hot if you have varicose veins, as it can cause pain and irritation.
8. Consume More Iron
Iron plays an important role in your circulatory system. Your body needs this mineral to create hemoglobin, a major component of red blood cells that transports oxygen throughout the body. Consider taking iron supplements or eating iron-rich foods like red meat and dark leafy greens. Just remember that excessive iron intake can be counterproductive and may negatively affect cardiovascular health.
Schedule a Consultation With a Vein Specialist
Knowing how to increase blood circulation in the body is important for your overall health. If you are dealing with vein abnormalities like varicose or spider veins, and your circulation is not improving with self-care methods, meeting with a vein specialist may be the next step.
At Texas Vein & Wellness Institute, we treat every patient with the latest technologies, state-of-the-art equipment and compassionate care. We perform minimally invasive vein procedures including radiofrequency ablation (RFA), sclerotherapy and more.
When you visit our facility for a consultation, we will help you better understand what is happening in your legs and veins, providing different treatment options and helping you select the best one for you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation appointment!