Blood circulation might not be the most glamorous part of your wellness routine, but it is definitely something to keep in mind — especially since it plays a vital role in overall health and beauty. Improved circulation can supply the body with proper nutrients, enrich organs with oxygen, and even promote healthy-looking skin (after all, skin is the body’s largest organ!).
Up ahead, we take a closer look at why blood circulation matters, plus some ways to improve it at home.
What is blood circulation and why does it matter?
“Your blood circulates throughout the entirety of your body all day, every day to help bring oxygenated blood to all of your organs. With each breath, your body takes in oxygen and releases carbon dioxide. That oxygen is then taken up by your red blood cells and is carried throughout the body,” says Alissia Zenhausern, N.M.D., a naturopathic physician at NMD Wellness of Scottsdale. “Your heart pumping is what stimulates your blood to circulate throughout your body, bringing oxygen-rich blood to your organs as well as bringing oxygen-poor blood back to the heart and lungs to be re-oxygenated. Without this circulation, we would not be able to survive, as our vital organs would be depleted of important nutrients and ultimately begin to shut down.” she adds. Good (or bad) circulation doesn’t just impact your vital organs — it can impact many different things inside the body. “Blood vessels supply blood to your organs and tissues, which is why they are so important for your health,” notes Zenhausern. And, as far as beauty is concerned, “our skin is also an organ and it also requires nutrients and oxygen, which it gets from the blood. Without proper blood circulation, our skin becomes deprived of necessary nutrients and can appear dry and dusty.”
What affects blood circulation?
As with many things in our body, we don’t have control over blood circulation. “Circulation can be affected by many different things including blood pressure, the pressure by which your heart is able to circulate blood throughout the body, the thickness of your blood (known as blood viscosity), as well as the diameter and strength of your blood vessels,” explains Zenhausern. That said, some lifestyle habits and medicines can also impact blood circulation and, unfortunately, not always for the better.
Smoking and diet can play a role in blood pressure which, as Zenhausern mentioned, has a direct impact on blood circulation. Additionally, sitting at your desk all day (or remaining sedentary in any way) can also affect blood circulation in a negative way. That is why making blood circulation — or at least habits that improve it — part of your daily wellness routine can make a difference.
7 ways to promote better blood circulation at home
1. Dry Brushing: Adding a dry brush to your beauty regimen can help slough off dead skin cells and promote smoother, softer skin. But, that is not the only reason to turn the ayurvedic-inspired ritual into a habit. “Not only does dry brushing help with blood circulation but it also helps with lymphatic movement. The reason lymphatic movement is important is because it helps our body circulate important bodily fluids, including white blood cells,” says Zenhausern. “The lymphatic system is the network of vessels through which lymph drains from the tissues into the blood.”
2. Exercise: Spending all day at your computer doesn’t exactly help your blood circulation, which is why Zenhausern highly recommends moving your body as much as you can. “We so often live a very sedentary lifestyle which actually promotes blood stagnation. The best way to combat this is by walking 30 minutes a day and standing for one minute every hour for at least 12 hours a day,” she explains. If you find yourself sitting for long periods of time, you might also want to schedule a stretch session a few times a day as a reminder to stand up and move. Even a couple of minutes are better than none! In addition to stretching breaks, opting for a standing desk could also help, so long as you aren’t staying in the same position (even standing still can count as sedentary!) for long periods of time. A lunch break yoga class or post-work Pilates class might also help improve circulation after sitting all day.
3. Hydrotherapy: As it turns out, you can improve blood circulation just by taking a shower. “The use of hot and cold water can invigorate your circulation,” explains Zenhausern. “Temperature like that seen in hot and cold water can actually cause dilation and constriction of your blood vessels, which help stimulate blood flow,” she continues. One quick and easy way to reap the benefits of hydrotherapy is to take a warm shower and then switch the faucet to cold for the last 20-30 seconds. “This will not only help with circulation, but you will feel an instant sense of energy,” notes Zenhausern.
4. Compression Boots: If you are on your feet all day, you might benefit from unique at-home tools like compression boots. “It can help facilitate proper blood flow and lymphatic drainage for those with poor circulation or those on their feet most of the day,” says Zenhausern. “Always consult with your doctor before using compression boots as they are not right for everyone. Patients with certain conditions — including Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), compartment syndrome, extremity deformity, or [an] open infected wounds of the lower extremities should not use compression boots,” she adds. If your doctor approves the use of compression boots, Zenhausern says it is okay to use them daily for 30 minutes.
5. Quit Bad Habits: In addition to what you can do, it might also benefit to think about what you can’t do. For an effective way to improve blood pressure at home, Zenhausern recommends kicking habits like smoking to the curb. “If you are a smoker, you are at higher risk of developing a blood clot,” she notes. On top of that, not drinking enough water can make a big difference. “Keep your body well hydrated throughout the day — as a general rule, drink half your body weight in ounces per day,” says Zenhausern.
6. Take Supplements: Certain vitamins might also help improve your blood circulation. “Vitamin C contains natural blood thinning properties that also help strengthen the walls of capillaries and help prevent plaque buildup, which can lead to poor circulation,” notes Zenhausern. “Omega 3 Fish oil can naturally thin blood, [too],” she adds. But make sure to talk to your doctor before adding any supplements into your routine.
7. Eat More Leafy Green Vegetables: Your diet can also help improve blood circulation. Zenhausern recommends eating green leafy vegetables like spinach and collard greens as they have “elevated levels of nitrates, which your body then converts into nitric oxide — a blood vessel relaxer [that] can help improve circulation.”
Precautions to consider
If you have any type of heart condition, Zenhausern says to consult your doctor before you incorporate any new techniques to improve blood pressure. “Depending on the type of heart condition you have, your heart may not be able to handle an increase in blood pressure that may occur with stimulated blood circulation,” she notes.
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