As someone who gets cold easily, I never thought much about my perpetually icy hands and feet. I attributed them to the air condition being too chilly. But it was only after I’d gone for massages where various therapists would rub my cold hands and tell me that I had poor blood circulation that I started to pay more attention to them. Poor blood circulation is actually a pretty common condition among women. But why exactly is blood circulation so important, and how does it actually affect one’s health? Curious, I turned to Chua Kay Tse, naturopath health educator and senior training manager at Blackmores Singapore to get more insights into this.
Why is it important to have good blood circulation?
The blood circulatory system is an integral part of our body as it delivers nutrients and oxygen to cells and vital organs. A healthy blood circulation is critical for fighting against infections, stabilising body temperature, and ensuring that the body is functioning well. Without it, many of the body’s primary functions will cease. Poor blood circulation could be sign of underlying health issues, such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure or could just be a consequence of a sedentary lifestyle. Women of all ages can be affected poor blood circulation, so it is important to spot the symptoms early and address them.
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What are the telltale signs of someone with poor blood circulation?
- Cold hands and feet all year round
- Numbness and tingling sensation in limbs with no apparent reason
- Frequent tiredness
- Light headedness and poor concentration
- Dry skin
- Brittle hair and nails
- Swelling of hands and feet
What are the health consequences of having poor blood circulation?
Since blood circulation is critical to the proper functioning of the human body, poor blood circulation can lead to multiple health consequences.
- Decreased cognitive ability
The brain is a vital organ in our body and requires a healthy supply of blood to function well. Poor blood circulation can slow down one’s mental abilities as the brain is not receiving sufficient oxygen and nutrients.
- Poor digestive system
Poor blood circulation can cause a loss of appetite but can also affect the body’s ability to obtain nutrients from the food we consume.
- Weakened immune system
The circulatory system and immune system both serve the same purpose and are complementary to each other. While the circulatory system works to transport oxygen and nutrients throughout the human body, the immune system protects the body by consuming foreign substances that can cause damage to the body. Since immune cells travel throughout the body through the circulatory system, poor blood circulation means that fewer immune cells are available to help fight against harmful substances.
What are some natural ways someone can improve their blood circulation?
A healthy blood circulatory system is constituted by healthy blood that can effectively carry oxygen and nutrients to cells and vital organs, a strong heart that is capable of pumping blood throughout the body, and unclogged blood vessels. Some natural ways to boost blood circulation include:
1. Consume more iron-rich foods
Iron is needed for the formation of haemoglobin, the oxygen-binding part of red blood cells that is responsible for carrying oxygen around the body. Try to include iron-rich foods such as red meat, organ meats, dark and leafy greens, seafood, eggs, kelp and molasses to increase your intake of iron.
2. Stay active
3. Pamper yourself with a trip to the spa
Massages can improve circulation in the body as it increases blood flow throughout the body and stimulates the lymph vessels. So, if you have had a rough week in the office or if you’re tired out from the household chores, treat yourself by booking a massage.
4. Refrain from crossing your legs
Most of us are guilty of sitting in the same position for prolonged periods during office hours. Women who cross their legs at their desks should note that it is bad for their posture and it also affects blood circulation. Remember to take a break regularly to stretch out your legs.
5. Stay hydrated
Just like how car engines need oil to function, the human body needs water for our organs to work at an optimal level. In addition to that, drinking sufficient water can also help to flush out toxins from the body and reduce the chances of blood thickening and clots. Try adding a squeeze of lemon or mint leaves to boost your water as well as antioxidants to support the immune system.
Additionally, eating the following foods may also help to promote better blood circulation:
6. Cayenne pepper
Cayenne pepper is used to treat conditions such as poor circulation, indigestion and blood clotting. Capsaicin found in cayenne has been studied for its effect in dilating blood vessels which may be beneficial in alleviating conditions such as cluster headaches and coronary artery disease. You can season meat or fish with cayenne pepper to add some spice to your diet and improve blood circulation.
Besides helping with digestion, ginger also has blood-thinning characteristics and stimulates blood flow to all organs. Incorporating ginger into your diet can be as easy as adding it into fruit juices or tea.
8. Gingko biloba
Studies have proven that ginkgo may support the central nervous system (CNS) and vascular system by promoting circulation via its blood thinning effect. If you find it hard to include ginkgo in your diet, consider taking ginkgo biloba supplements from a trusted supplement brand to support healthy blood circulation and cognitive function.
9. Fatty cold-water fish
EPA and DHA can be found in fatty fish. Opt for small fatty fish such as anchovies and sardines as these are usually exposed to a lower level of contaminants. According to numerous studies, Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to support blood circulation and cardiovascular health through a range of ways, including maintaining the elasticity of blood vessels, dilatation of blood vessels which decreases blood pressure, demonstrating anti-platelet effects and reduction of triglyceride levels in the blood.
10. Dark chocolate
Hooray, chocolate is on the list! Dark chocolate that is cocoa-rich contains compounds called polyphenols that may support vascular health by improving blood flow via the dilatation of blood vessels. Let dark chocolate be your new guilty pleasure from now on!
This article was originally published in Shape.