Do you suffer from cold hands or feet? Do you digest food slowly? Do you develop frequent headaches? What about general body aches and pains? All of this could be due to a lack of circulation. Circulation can affect many different aspects of our health, and it is important because it helps keep the blood flowing as well as supplies oxygen to the brain and other areas of our bodies, which is what allows us to be able to function.

First, we’ll take a look at some of the most common reasons why we might have poor circulation. They include:

• Lack of exercise
• Obesity
• Poor diet
• Tobacco use
• Blood clots
• Stress

Lack of Exercise, Obesity and Diet
Physical activity is one of the best ways to keep the blood circulating in our bodies. As you exercise, your blood vessels dilate, which increases blood flow. The exercise you do doesn’t have to be lengthy or strenuous, either. As little as 30 minutes of exercise each day can significantly improve blood flow as well as improve your health in many other ways. If you’re sitting at school or work all day, remember to try and take breaks if you can – even if it’s just a few minutes away from your desk. The longer you sit, the worse your circulation will be.

Obesity is also a common reason that people may have decreased blood circulation, as having extra weight or excess fat can be a burden on the body – not to mention puts you at an increased risk of developing other health problems such as diabetes, as well as a higher likelihood of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

Nutrition also plays a role in circulation. Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician, recommends increasing your Vitamin C and Vitamin E intake, as well as suggests adding things like fresh ginger, garlic and cayenne pepper to your meals/recipes. Eating healthy has many benefits and is something that we should all do regardless. Click here for tips on how to improve your diet.

Tobacco Use
As many as 5.3 million Canadians are smokers. Tobacco use is one of the leading causes of lung cancer and other lung-related illnesses like COPD, asthma and emphysema. Your lungs aren’t the only things affected by cigarette smoke, however. It can also affect blood flow and blood vessels. To prevent this, it is strongly recommended that you quit smoking. You can find smoking cessation tips by clicking here.

Blood Clots
Blood clots can develop for a number of different reasons, and they can be extremely dangerous. For example, a blood clot in your leg could break away and travel to different parts of your body, such as your lungs. When a blood clot occurs, they can partially or fully block the flow of blood. If discovered early enough, a blood clot can be successfully treated.

Stress
It might sound silly, but stress and anxiety can also impact the body’s blood flow. When your stress and anxiety levels are at their peak, you may begin to hyperventilate and your adrenaline might kick in. When you hyperventilate, you breathe quickly, and when this happens the blood vessels constrict which causes the blood to flow much slower. On the opposite end of the spectrum, adrenaline can cause your blood vessels to dilate and move quicker than it should. In order to keep your blood flow going it’s a good idea to reduce your stress levels and identify triggers. For tips on how you can do this (and for other mental health resources), click here.

Signs and symptoms of poor circulation include swelling and/or numbness of the hands, legs, and/or feet, fatigue, changes in skin temperature, dizziness, hair loss, and even dry skin. In order for your physician to be able to accurately diagnose poor circulation, it’s important to let him or her know of any family history of circulation problems as well as your lifestyle habits. Certain tests can also be performed that could detect possible reasons for a lack of blood flow. These include blood tests, glucose tests, blood pressure monitoring, as well as medical imaging tests such as X-ray, ultrasound or CT scans.