Are you experiencing muscle cramps? Is there a stinging feeling in your limbs? Do you have cold or numb hands? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you could be suffering from poor circulation. For people with diabetes, poor blood circulation, where one or more parts of the body receive inadequate blood flow, is a real concern and can cause serious health problems. Other symptoms include:
- Brittle toenails
- Slow wound healing
- Pale blue color on the affected areas
- Ulcers on the legs and feet
- Varicose veins
- Dry, cracked skin
- Hair loss on affected areas
- Erectile disfunction
Diabetes can lead to poor circulation in several ways. The most common culprit is high blood glucose levels, which damage the lining of blood vessels and impede blood flow. Diabetes also increases the risk of peripheral arterial disease (PAD), an abnormal narrowing of the arteries principally in your legs and feet.
Poor circulation can put you at a higher risk of developing serious foot problems, which may lead to amputations. Fortunately, there are simple, tried and tested ways of improving blood flow around the body.
Ways To Improve Blood Circulation
Consider taking the following steps to get your blood pumping smoothly so your feet, arms and legs stay as healthy as possible.
One of the best ways to improve poor circulation is to get your body moving. Perform regular cardiovascular exercise which is any exercise that raises your heart rate. This will get the blood flowing to your feet, legs, hands and other parts of your body. Therefore, try to run, walk, swim or cycle for 30 minutes five times a week. Whichever exercise you choose, the vital thing is to make sure your feet, toes, ankles and legs are moving.
According to a study published in 2020 in the American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology, exercise frequency is more important than the duration. Researchers found that exercising for three minutes every 30 minutes showed more improvement in blood flow for people with type 2 diabetes than more extended exercise periods or no exercise at all. The exercises included squats, leg lifts and calf raises.
Regular exercise for six months can lead to a 20% improvement in ankle blood pressure, states the National Health Service in the United Kingdom.
Keep Your Cholesterol Under Control
High cholesterol levels narrow and harden arteries impeding blood flow, so talk with your doctor about your optimum cholesterol levels. If they are found to be too high, your physician may recommend medications and/or lifestyle modifications. These may include taking more physical exercise, cutting down on convenience foods and having home-cooked meals as much as possible.
Maintain Low Blood Sugar Levels
Managing blood sugar levels reduces the build-up of fatty deposits in blood vessels. The American Diabetes Association recommends the following targets for most nonpregnant adults with diabetes: Between 80–130 mg/dL before a meal and less than 180 mg/dL after the beginning of the meal.
Wear Diabetic Compression Socks
Diabetic compression socks apply gentle pressure to your feet and legs, helping to straighten vein walls into a better working state. Like having a good massage, they can increase blood flow to your legs and other extremities. They can also reduce swelling and help to prevent blood clots.
Take Medications As Prescribed
If your doctor has given you a prescription for blood thinners or other medications, always take them as directed.
Give Up Smoking
People who smoke are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular problems, which can eventually impede blood flow. The sooner you can quit your daily habit, the better for your circulatory system.
Learn to De-Stress
During stressful situations, the adrenal glands activate the release of glucose from several organs. This can elevate levels of glucose in the blood. While this can be useful for the body's 'fight-or-flight' response, continual stress can be particularly problematic for people with diabetes. Stress can also raise blood pressure which can cause poor circulation.
Therefore look at ways you can de-stress, such as deep breathing exercises, visualization techniques and conscious muscle relaxation. This involves tensing the muscles in your legs, feet, arms or other body parts for a few seconds and then relaxing them.
Manage Blood Pressure
If you have high blood pressure, speak to your doctor about ways to bring it into a healthy range. This might include taking prescription medications, modifying your diet and exercising.
Following these essential tips can help you to improve blood flow and avoid the complications associated with poor circulation.
If you have diabetes and are experiencing poor circulation, it is imperative to call your doctor. Addressing problems early on can help prevent further cardiovascular problems and amputations.
For more information about how to improve blood circulation, call MINT today or book an appointment online at one of our 5 clinics, including the latest addition in Chicago, IL.