If we were to arrange a child’s blood vessels in to a single line it would stretch over 60,000 miles.1 If we were to do the same for a full grown adult, the line would be nearly 100,000 miles. That’s an enormous network of blood vessels running through each and every one of our bodies.
Arteries, veins, and capillaries are the three types of blood vessel in the human body. They ensure that cells get oxygen and nutrients, whilst waste products and carbon dioxide are shipped out.
Systemic circulation is the name we give to the process whereby oxygen rich blood travels from the left ventricle of the heart,2 through the arteries, and into the body tissues. Once the blood has become deoxygenated it travels back to the right atrium through the veins – an easy way to remember this is by noting that veins go in.
Raynaud's phenomenon, named after the French physician Maurice Raynaud, who in 1862 discovered the condition, is the term we use to describe poor circulation to the extremities (feet and hands). The phenomenon can be triggered by cold weather, which causes the vessels to contract, anxiety, and stress.
The symptoms, which include numbness, pain, pins and needles, and colour change, can last anything from a few minutes to long hours.
Fatigue, hair loss, and vertigo are all severe symptoms of the condition.3
What causes poor circulation?
Because our bodies are oxygenated through a complex system of blood vessels, anything that we do to restrict their flow can have knock on impacts throughout our body. The brain, heart, and all other organs need to be oxygenated to work properly.
Smokers are especially at risk here.4 When you smoke a cigarette the toxins enter your blood. Consequently, your blood becomes thicker and is more prone to clotting. Your heart rate also increases and so it has to work harder than usual. And to add to that, your arteries constrict limiting the amount of oxygen rich blood entering your tissues. This all leads to heart attacks and strokes.
Ways to improve your circulation
Green tea and many foods are rich in antioxidants such as flavonoids, polyphenols and catechins. Try to consume these on a daily basis. Consume iron rich foods. Keep fit, and monitor your weight.
Stand up at work, and do not live a sedentary lifestyle. A step counter on your phone can really help with this. Anyone who walks less than 10,000 steps a day is considered to be living a sedentary lifestyle, and is thus more at risk of poor circulation and its associated diseases.
Quit smoking and drinking. Yes in moderation drinks like red wine can benefit us, but it is best to ditch the cigarettes.5
How supplements can help
Added to these simple steps, you can always take supplements to give your diet that extra boost.6 Iron, B vitamin complex (Vitamin B1,B3, B12), Calcium, Magnesium, Vitamin C, Capsicum, and Ginkgo Biloba can all help your circulatory system.
Ginkgo biloba, or the maidenhair tree, is the last living species of Ginkgophyta. It is a fascinating and potent supplement, deriving from one of the oldest living tree species (with fossils that date back as far as 270 million years). Its stoic nature is evidenced by the fact that after the 1945 Hiroshima blast, six trees were found growing 1 to 2 km from the site, in a landscape that was otherwise deserted.
Ginkgo biloba is a natural antioxidant, and has been shown to open up blood vessels, and to make the blood less sticky.7
Calcium, we all know from growing up, is a wonderful thing. But because it is not made in the body, it must be absorbed from the food we consume. If our circulatory system is already working poorly, or our diet is bad, this can be a problem.9
Ascorbic Acid, which is commonly known as Vitamin C, is another great way to boost your circulatory system. Thankfully it is found in abundance in fruits such as tomatoes, kiwis, oranges, and strawberries.
Leafy green vegetables, such as beans, lentils, prunes, raisins, and red meat, are all rich in iron. Some of us however do not have the time or inclination to get enough of this stuff, and so natural supplements are there to take up the slack. Trust Popeye, he was on to something with this one.
Magnesium is the eighth most abundant element on the earth’s crust, and yet most of us find it difficult to get enough daily. We should be taking between 320 milligrams and 420 milligrams daily, depending on age and gender. Supplements are a great way to tick off that chore for the day.
Indeed most of these supplements can be ticked off for the day in one simple early morning task. A glass of water and your daily supplements all before 9AM, now that’s a productive way to start the day.
Long term effects of bad circulation
Over a long period of time bad circulation can lead to some pretty horrific conditions. Varicose Veins are enlarged, lumpy, twisted veins that usually pop out of your legs and feet. They are caused by poor circulation and can lead to pain, swelling, itchiness, and muscle cramp.
Arthritis is also associated with poor circulation, and impacts on the lives of roughly 10 million Britons each year. Most sufferers experience joint pain and stiffness. Knees, hips, and small joints are most at risk from the condition. As there is no cure the treatment involves medication to alleviate the pain, and lifestyle changes such as improving diet and doing more exercise.
So when it comes to circulation why not try supplements in the morning, and save yourself this pain and struggle in later life.
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