Man Putting on Compressions SocksIn order for your organs to function properly, your brain to remain sharp, your heart to work efficiently, and wounds to heal quickly, you need a strong circulatory system. When you have good circulation of blood and oxygen throughout your body, all of your body systems are supported and you are primed to maintain optimal health. At Northwest Extremity Specialists, we help patients diagnose and treat the causes of poor circulation so that they can prevent the potential loss of a limb and live their best lives. We urge you to pay attention to the warning signs of poor circulation and take our suggestions for improving and maintaining good circulation.

Typical Warning Signs of Poor Circulation

People often ignore the common warning signs of poor circulation because they are not particularly burdensome and they begin to assume that the symptoms are just normal for them. While this might be true for one or two of the symptoms, it’s not generally normal to experience several of them together on a regular basis. If you have experienced more than one of the following for an extended period of time, it’s important that you reach out to a doctor:

  • Lack of energy. Chronic fatigue with no other explanation could be a sign that your blood flow is slower than normal. If blood and oxygen are not circulating at a normal rate, you will tire out more easily and constantly feel drained of energy. 
  • Cold hands and feet. Blood needs to be flowing at a good rate in order to reach the points of your body that are farthest from your heart—namely, your hands and feet. If your fingers and toes feel cold when the rest of your body feels warm, this can be an indication of poor circulation.
  • Hair loss. Hair follicles require the nutrients provided by blood in order to grow. People with circulatory system problems could begin to notice that the hair on their arms and legs stops growing. This could be a sign that blood is not flowing properly.
  • Slow wound healing. Cuts, scrapes, and other wounds require plasma-rich blood from the heart to engage in the healing process. If you notice that sores—especially on your hands and feet—are not healing as quickly as they used to, this could be an indication of poor circulation.
  • Dizziness when standing up. If you feel dizzy when you stand up quickly or during physical exercise, it could mean that blood is not flowing adequately to your brain. If this is a constant occurrence, it’s important to see a medical professional.
  • Erectile dysfunction in men. While this condition can be caused by several factors, it could be a sign that your body is not able to push blood out “on demand” to your extremities.

Other symptoms such as dry and cracked hands and feet and tingling in fingers and toes can also be signs of poor circulation. Taken together, these symptoms should be evaluated by a doctor.

Possible Causes of Poor Circulation

Symptoms such as those listed above could be signs of a dangerous underlying health condition that requires medical intervention. Poor circulation could be caused by:

  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Peripheral artery disease (PAD)
  • Anemia
  • High blood pressure
  • Untreated blood clots
  • Carrying excessive weight
  • Smoking

If you have been diagnosed with one or more of these chronic conditions, that is likely the cause of your poor circulation and uncomfortable symptoms. Treatment of the condition, including medications and lifestyle changes, can improve your circulation and alleviate your symptoms. If you have not been diagnosed with any of these conditions and you have several of the symptoms, it’s important that you talk to a doctor.

5 Things You Can Do to Improve Poor Circulation

Whether you have a diagnosed condition or not, there are things you can do to get your heart pumping and increase the blood flow through your body. The following activities are beneficial to everyone, regardless of their overall health:

  1. Exercise. One of the best things you can do to improve circulation is to engage in regular cardiovascular exercise. Any level of activity that increases your heart rate will help with blood flow. For some people, that could be a simple walk around the block. For others, that could mean joining a gym and working out at a higher intensity. The more you exercise, the better.
  2. Eat right. A strong heart depends on a healthy diet that is low in sodium and sugar and includes fruits, vegetables, and fish. If you are anemic, eating iron-rich foods and taking an iron supplement will help oxygenate your blood.
  3. Manage disease. It is vital that you manage diseases such as hypertension and diabetes in order to restore your circulatory system to normal functioning. Taking prescribed medications, eating right, seeing a doctor regularly, and exercising are all important for treating chronic disease.
  4. Wear compression socks. Wearing compression socks and elevating your legs will force blood flow from your extremities up to your heart. After a day of standing or sitting, it can be very helpful to sit with your feet up and relax for a bit. 
  5. Stop smoking. Smoking cigarettes is a risk factor for a number of diseases. Smoking restricts your blood vessels and hardens your arteries, making blood flow difficult. If you are a smoker, quitting can be the best thing you can do to improve circulation.

Poor circulation can be a symptom of a serious medical condition, but it could also just be a side-effect of a sedentary lifestyle. The sooner you figure out what’s causing your poor circulation, the better off you will be. 

Add See an Extremity Specialist to Your To-Do List

If you are suffering from the symptoms of poor circulation and you have discussed them with your primary care physician, your next step should be a visit to Northwest Extremity Specialists. We will develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses the root causes of poor circulation and help you overcome your discomfort. Call us today at 503-245-2420 to make an appointment in the Portland-area office closest to you.