If you suffer from poor circulation, it’s essential to understand how cold weather has the potential to be dangerous. Not only do cooler days increase a person’s risk of serious illness from coughs, heart and lung problems, falls, or even the flu, but veins can also be affected. Carry on reading to learn more about the impact of cold weather on circulation and veins and tips to help you stay healthy throughout the winter.
The effect of cold weather on circulation
Referred to as the winter cardiovascular diseases phenomenon, scientists have found that diseases such as stroke, pulmonary embolism, and heart disease occur more often in the fall and the winter months.
One reason for this is that cold weather causes constriction of the veins and arteries, placing more strain on patients whose coronary circulation is already impaired. This extra demand may reduce the level of oxygen received by the heart muscle, which could trigger a host of cardiovascular problems.
Another explanation is that the body must work harder to regulate its temperature in cooler weather. As a result, thermal stress can cause the blood to thicken and form blood clots.
What about varicose veins? How are they affected?
The good news is that if you suffer from venous insufficiency, cold weather isn’t just about bad news. While warm weather can affect healthy circulation by dilating the veins and causing the blood to pool, cold temperatures have the opposite effect.
While the circulation may slow down in small blood vessels such as fingers and toes, cooler temperatures can ease the discomfort of varicose veins. Symptoms such as painful legs, cramps, and swelling can become less severe in cold weather
On the flip side of this, cold weather often results in less activity and can aggravate venous insufficiency. So while vein symptoms may improve in cooler weather, unfortunately, the transition from an active to a more sedentary lifestyle during fall and winter can be equally problematic.
Patients are less inclined to engage in outdoor activities such as walking, cycling and gardening, thus limiting the amount of exercise needed to maintain efficient blood flow to the legs.
Tips to promote healthy blood circulation during fall and winter
Cooler temperatures can slow blood flow around the body due to constriction of the veins and arteries. However, following these tips in the winter can maintain correct blood flow and maintain good circulation.
Often when the weather is cold and miserable, the last thing on your mind is to exercise. However, it’s vital to stay active, not just to improve circulation but to keep warm too!
Try exercising indoors with resistance bands or an exercise bike or wrap up warm and take your dog for a walk outside.
On the subject of wrapping up warm, this is a habit to get into during the winter months. If you suffer from poor circulation and it’s cold outside, be sure to wear a hat, scarf and gloves. Wear some thermal underwear, too, if the temperature drops to below zero. You can always remove layers when you get back indoors, but your top priority should be to stay warm when outside.
Drink plenty of water
While it’s tempting to reach out for hot drinks like chocolate, coffee or tea to keep cosy and warm, it’s more beneficial to drink a glass of water at frequent intervals throughout the day. Ensuring you are hydrated will thin the blood and improve its flow. If you can’t face drinking cold water, why not opt for warm water with a slice of lemon.
Avoid fatty and salty foods
We’re all guilty of indulging in so-called ‘comfort foods’ while slumped on the couch during winter. However, you must limit your intake of salty foods as these are bad for you and can cause fluid retention, leading to high blood pressure and increased risk of stroke, osteoporosis, heart failure, kidney disease and stomach cancer.
Moreover, foods rich in saturated fats such as red meat, full dairy products and butter can impact your endothelial cell function and, in due course, your overall vascular system. Instead, eat plenty of colorful fruits, vegetables and foods high in nutritional content and fiber.
Boost your circulation with berries
Did you know that berries can increase blood flow and boost your circulation? It’s true. Red and purple berries are rich in anthocyanin, a compound that protects artery walls and keeps the blood vessels flexible. In addition, they trigger the release of nitric oxide to lower blood pressure. Why not add some berries to a bowl of warm porridge for a healthy and filling breakfast.
Treat your varicose veins
The best way to avoid discomfort with varicose veins is to visit a vein specialist to have them treated.
Try wearing compression stockings
Wearing compression stockings during fall and winter will help ease symptoms and protect against new varicose veins forming. These stockings have also proven to promote circulation and improve venous insufficiency significantly.
Seek expert advice
Dr Goke and the team at Midwest Institution for Non-surgical Therapy (MINT) offers comprehensive outpatient services for diseases of the veins and arteries and for health conditions that improve with vascular treatment. Each patient is given personalized care at our offices in St Louis, Farmington, and Swansea. Why not book a consultation at at one of our 5 clinics, including the latest addition in Chicago, IL to discuss our treatment program.