It’s hardly surprising that every medical professional advises their patients to boost circulation. Healthy, efficient blood flow enables every organ in the body to function correctly. It helps keep the heart healthy, heal wounds faster, keeps the brain sharp, and even gives your complexion a healthy glow.
When circulation is compromised in the legs, it can lead to leg pain, swelling, varicose veins and more.
Why healthy blood flow in the legs is so important
Despite the heart doing most of the work in pumping the blood around our bodies, it needs some help. This is where muscles in the lower legs come into play. As well as guiding and controlling movement when standing walking and running, these muscles also assist blood flow by acting as pumps.
The lower leg muscles assist blood circulation, regulating and ensuring the whole body has healthy blood circulation by expanding and contracting at the correct pressures. The muscular pump in the calf is so important that often it’s referred to as the second heart.
Even though these muscles (like the heart) do their job without us doing anything, they are equally as susceptible to disease and injury. Indeed, the presence of varicose veins may be an indication that the lower leg muscles aren’t working as they should. Some factors to cause this include:
- Inadequate exercise
- Injury or atrophy to the lower leg
- Consistent periods where legs do little movement, i.e. office worker, bus driver, a worker on a factory production line
If you’re at risk of developing varicose veins, already have them, or want to lower your risk of getting varicose veins and improving your circulation, building up lower leg muscles can help.
How to boost the circulation in your legs – top tips
Calf raises - are a great way of making Achilles tendons and calves stronger and more flexible. Not only does this exercise help improve blood flow and strengthen the muscles, but it provides more resistance for the legs against injury.
Stand straight and lift your heels off the ground while keeping the front of your feet flat and firmly on the floor. You should feel your muscles tense.
Hold the position for 5 seconds and lower your heels back down.
Repeat this exercise 10 times and complete 3 sets.
Leg raises – This exercise helps strengthen the entire leg and assists blood flow in the short term. Lay on your back with your arms by your side and your legs outstretched.
Slowly lift one leg and keep it straight.
Raise it as high as possible without causing yourself pain and hold it there for 5 seconds.
Slowly lower the leg back down.
Repeat this exercise 10 times with each leg and complete 3 sets on both sides
Walking – While it may seem quite basic, regular walks are one of the most effective and beneficial forms of exercise. To get the most out of walking, you need to walk at a steady pace without any breaks for at least 20 minutes.
Whenever you can, try walking uphill to strengthen your legs even more. The steeper the incline, the more your muscles will be challenged. Not only does uphill walking manage and provide relief for current vein issues, but it helps lower the risk of developing varicose veins in the first place.
How to reduce the risk of poor circulation
There is plenty you can do to improve the circulation in your legs and feet. But changes to your lifestyle will significantly reduce the risk of poor circulation. Here are a few tips to take on board:
- Get moving – One of the best ways to improve your circulation is to move around. If you have a sedentary job, then moving during breaktimes is paramount, and climbing stairs, whenever you can, will also help. Even a simple walk before or after you finish work can do wonders for your health and wellbeing.
- Healthy diet – Eating a well-balanced diet and incorporating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables will improve your health and circulation.
- Give up smoking – Smoking harms artery walls by causing plaque, which in turn hardens the arteries making it difficult for the blood to flow freely and decreasing circulation.
- Compression stockings – If you have a problem with swollen legs, wearing compression stockings will reduce the swelling and lower the risk of blood clots.
- Elevate your legs – Raising your legs above your heart for a minimum of 20 minutes a day not only improves circulation but reduces swelling in the legs. Seize this opportunity to take the weight off your legs, lower stress levels, relax or meditate.
- Keep your blood pressure in check – Managing your blood pressure is critical since high blood pressure can damage your arteries and heart.
- Visit a vascular and endovascular specialist
If you are concerned about your circulation, visit a vascular specialist as soon as possible. We provide comprehensive outpatient services for diseases of the veins and arteries and for health conditions that improve with vascular treatment.
Contact Dr Goke Akinwande to discuss non-surgical therapy with little or no downtime. Call The Midwest Institute for Non-Surgical Therapy (MINT) or use our online booking service to visit one of our 5 clinics, including the latest addition in Chicago, IL.