Circulation problems can be experienced by men, women and children. The task of sending blood, nutrients and oxygen to all parts of the body is carried out by our circulation system, and a reduced blood flow to any area of the body means that the cardiovascular system isn’t working as it should be.
The body’s circulatory system is not only responsible for transporting nutrients and oxygen to the cells. It also plays a role in transferring away the carbon dioxide and wastes that need to be excreted from the body.
Therefore, if the cardiovascular system is not functioning at full capacity, the health of the whole body is affected.
Circulation problems usually present themselves in the extremities, particularly in the arms and hands, and legs and feet. Poor circulation is not a disease but rather a symptom, or a result of another health problem, such as diabetes, obesity, arterial problems or heart disease.
If left untreated, it can lead to a lifetime of disability or discomfort.
Lifestyle Factors That Contribute to Poor Blood Circulation
There are many lifestyle factors that can affect healthy blood circulation, including the following:
1. Lack of Exercise
Lack of physical activity is a huge contributor to circulation problems. If a person must sit or stand for long periods of time most days of the week, the blood in the legs and pelvis area can become stagnant, due to the poor blood circulation.
If nothing is done to rectify the poor blood flow, it may eventually lead to blood clots. This is the reason why airline passengers who are traveling for long hours are advised to get up, move about, drink lots of water and avoid wearing tight fitting garments. They will also be asked to perform some leg and body stretches to allow better blood circulation.
Cigarettes contain chemicals such as carbon monoxide and nicotine that is harmful to the circulatory system. Nicotine is not only addictive, it can have adverse effects on the arteries.
As a stimulant, nicotine can speed up the heart rate resulting in increased blood pressure. As a vasoconstrictor, all the arteries become smaller, thus making it harder for the heart to pump oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. To overcome the effects of nicotine in the body, the heart has to work harder.
Unfortunately, the need to work harder means an increased need for oxygen to be able to sustain the additional effort required for the heart to make. However, the carbon monoxide from the cigarette poisons the oxygen content in the blood and this is when the dangerous cycle of bad circulation starts.
Health experts have confirmed that alcohol binge drinking can have negative impacts on blood flow and circulation, as it impairs the functioning of the circulatory system.
There has been plenty of scientific findings to show that alcohol harms the proper functioning of the smooth muscle and endothelium cells, which play a role in the regulation of healthy blood flow throughout the body.
These harmful effects of alcohol cause the development, and/or the progression of artery problems, such as atherosclerosis while also increasing the risk of other cardiovascular diseases.
4. Stress and Anger
Chronic exposure to high levels of stress, which in turn may contribute to negative emotions such as anger, can contribute to poor circulation.
Too much stress can cause muscle tightness, quite often felt in the neck and shoulders. This tightness can make you want to scream! This tightness, or muscle knots, disrupts the proper flow of blood to the brain, heart and other vital organs of the body.
To prevent stress from causing poor blood circulation, finding ways to manage and reduce stress is important.
Health Conditions that Lead to Poor Blood Circulation
There are also health problems that may contribute to an unhealthy circulatory system, which includes the following:
1. Varicose Veins Can Lead to Poor Circulation
Varicose veins are usually caused by walking or standing for long periods of time and can cause poor circulation when the veins become dilated resulting in an abnormal flow of blood. People with varicose veins often complain about having tired and aching limbs due to the poor circulation.
The valves of healthy veins prevent the blood from becoming stuck or from flowing backwards, and these valves open and close to ensure that the blood flows through the limbs and moves in one direction.
However, with varicose veins the valves become weak or deformed thereby allowing the blood to flow abnormally and accumulate in one area. This is what gives the vein a swollen, bulging appearance and contributes to poor blood circulation.
2. Peripheral Artery Disease
Peripheral Artery Disease occurs when the arteries which deliver blood to the legs, feet and arms become stiff and narrowed. This hardening of the arteries is usually noticed first in the legs and feet, due to the poor circulation of the blood.
The arteries start to lose their elasticity as they become narrowed and hardened due to the accumulation of calcium deposits on the walls of the arteries.
Eventually these arteries may close completely thereby blocking the flow of blood which will then lead to tissue and nerve damage, or injury. When these arteries fail to supply blood as they should, the person will experience tingling, numbness and pain.
This condition is associated with other medical problems such as diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Cigarette smokers are also at a higher risk of having PAD.
3. Raynaud’s Disease
Raynaud’s disease (also known as Raynaud’s phenomenon) is where the smaller arteries or blood vessels tighten or become over-sensitive in a response to hot or cold temperatures. For example, if it is freezing cold, the supply of blood to the extremities is drastically reduced, and poor circulation results.
Raynaud’s disease causes poor circulation in the legs during the night. Severe stress can also trigger the development of this disease. It is characterized by spontaneous spasms that occur in the blood vessels which results in poor blood flow.
This condition is usually characterized by skin discoloration in a person’s fingers, toes and sometimes the nose. This discoloration is caused by an abnormal spasm happening in the blood vessels leading to a reduced supply of blood to the local tissues.
4. Deep Vein Thrombosis DVT
When blood clots occur in the veins, a condition called Deep Vein Thrombosis develops. This condition causes swelling and pain in the legs, and can be life-threatening if the blood clots become loose. These clots can cause a serious blockage of a healthy blood flow.
If this plaque lodges inside your lungs, pulmonary embolism can take place. People who have had surgery or are bedridden and unable to move for an extended period of time have an increased risk of developing this condition.