Modernization and changes in lifestyle have the potential to cause adverse effects on the cardiovascular system. Cardiovascular diseases are the world’s leading killers, and the World Health Organization, WHO, estimates that by 2020 cardiovascular diseases will account for 40% of all deaths worldwide. Majority of cardiovascular diseases is caused due to blood circulation problems. Improper circulation of blood through arteries and veins results in insufficient supply of oxygen and nutrients to our organs and tissues.
Our circulatory system, also known as the cardiovascular system, consists of a pump (heart), a high pressure distribution circuit (arteries), exchange vessels and a low-pressure collection and return circuit (veins). The circulatory system serves the purpose of integrating the body as a unit and provides a continuous supply of nutrients and oxygen to various parts of the body. Coversely, the circulatory system helps in the elimination of toxins (the byproducts of metabolism). Poor blood circulation, at best, may lead to a feeling of numbness and tingling sensation in your feet and hands. However, at worst, it may put you at a risk of a heart attack or stroke due to oxygen in the blood not able to reach certain vital organs.
Blood circulation gets affected due to unhealthy eating, lack of physical activity, unhealthy habits and lifestyle. Thus, for a proper circulation, you need to bring important changes in these aspects. Here are some of the important, healthy and non-pharmacological tips to improve blood circulation:
1. Exercise Regularly: Exercises are the one of the most effective ways to enhance blood circulation. Thirty minutes of regular exercise for 4-5 times a week can substantially reduce your risk of various cardiovascular problems. There is an increase in the pumping action of the heart along with an increase in the number of capillaries. Exercises do not necessarily mean paying regular visits to the gym or a fitness studio! Rather, it can take the form of any physical activity like walking, jogging, running, stair climbing, cycling, swimming etc. These exercises have a great potential to improve the blood circulation rate. If you are running short of time, you can go for simple “at-home” exercises like performing ankle toe movements, or rotating arms in a circular manner. Having a small waking session at home or in the office can serve the same purpose.
2. Eat Healthy: To live healthy, you must eat healthy. Avoid consuming excess of anything especially saturated fats like dairy products; hydrogenated oils etc. Instead, consume healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA). Eat plenty of green leafy vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Reduce the consumption of sugar and salt and add up more of dietary fibers. Improper diet can adversely affect the blood cholesterol levels, which in turn, can result in atherosclerotic changes (plaque build-up in the artery walls which does not allow blood to flow freely). These conditions affect the body’s normal process of blood circulation.
3. Drink Healthy: The blood plasma volume is the major determinant of blood pressure and the circulatory functions. Dehydration can cause a reduction in the volume of blood through a reduction in the water content of the blood. This further lowers the blood circulation rate. Make sure you drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated.
4. Have an Active Lifestyle: The sedentary lifestyle of today slows down the rate of circulation and causes various health related problems. Switch to a healthy and active lifestyle – get involved in some outdoor activities like gardening, dog walking or in some recreational sports like cricket, football, tennis and golf. Get adequate amount of sleep and learn to cope up with day to day stress. Stress, which causes muscle-tensions, can lead to serious circulation problems and cardiovascular diseases. Relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation can help in the restoration of the body’s harmony. Breathing exercises too, that are associated with yoga, are known to purify the blood, thereby improving circulation.
5. Take Ancient Herbal Remedies: Include herbs like cayenne (a mild form of chili powder), ginger, garlic and ginkgo in your diet. These herbs have favorable effects on blood circulation. Wild berries and rosemary are known for their effects in regulating and stabilizing blood pressure. Spicy foods also promote good circulation. When you eat spicy food, your body’s temperature is raised; therefore, it increases your blood flow and gets your heart pumping.
6. Go for a Massage: Massage is one of the ancient and the most effective remedies to improve blood circulation. Massage is not just a relaxation technique but something more than that. Body pain develops on account of reduced oxygen supply to the muscles due to muscle tension. Massage works by releasing tension from the muscles and making way for the supply of oxygen in the muscles.
7. Get Benefits from Positioning: Our body is always under the act of gravity and gravitational force always tries to pull the blood away from the heart. Thus, positioning is one of the easy way to improve local circulation. Using gravity as assistance to aid circulation is the basic rationale behind it. Position yourself in such a way that, the area where you want to increase circulation is positoned above your heart level.Some of the yoga pose like shoulder stand, head stand etc. make use of same concept to improve circulation.
8. Opt for Hydrotherapy Sessions: It includes warm water bath, contrast bath (switching between the hot and cold water), steam bath, etc. The therapy, targeted towards relaxation, causes vasodilatation (widening of the blood vessels) of peripheral blood vessels (arteries and veins in the feet, legs, lower abdomen, arms, neck or head) which in turn, lead to faster and smoother movements of blood. These are signs of proper blood circulation.
9. Quit Smoking: Smoking is primarily responsible for peripheral vascular diseases (diseases of the blood vessels located outside the heart and brain). It brings about degenerative changes within the blood vessels leading to hardening of arteries which eventually leads to improper blood circulation.
It is evident from the above passage that lifestyle changes and not medications can promote the body’s blood circulation process. You need to incorporate some special changes by introducing certain measures in the area of fitness, diet and lifestyle. And yes, by sacrificing your favorite habit – smoking!