7 tips to help stop poor circulation ruining your life
"I've been told I've got poor blood circulation and if I don't do something about it, I could be dead before I'm fifty!" Brian was morbidly overweight, stank of cigarettes, and admitted to a "terrible temper" - all these things individually can contribute to high blood pressure.
If you suspect you have poor circulation and have noticed you have calf pain when you walk, see your doctor for a full medical assessment because, as with Brian, it could be a sigh of serious artery problems. It might also be a symptom of Reynaud's disease, an inherited autoimmune condition which can come on at any age and interrupt blood flow to the fingers, toes, and even nose and ears, making the extremities painful. All possible health problems need to be ruled out.
Bad blood circulation can be an annoying hereditary trait, but whatever its cause, here are some tips (which we can all follow even if our circulation is fine) to help improve blood circulation and get your red stuff flowing as it should:
1) Kick out the evil weed for good (circulation)
We all know that many smokers display 'optimistic distortion'. That is, they fool themselves that their hacking cough, wheezing chest, rapidly wrinkling skin, and poor circulation "has got nothing to do with" smoking cigarettes. Once they can stop kidding themselves and see tobacco for the life destroyer that it is, they have a chance of escape.
Over a period of a couple of sessions, I helped Brian quit his forty-a-day habit. Although smoking restricts blood flow into the extremities (one reason why smoking increases male impotence), circulatory benefits of quitting smoking are pretty instant, with blood pressure and circulation both enjoying returns to more normal levels within thirty minutes.
2) Work that body and improve circulation - and much else besides
Brian's health was terrible. He had hypertension, a build-up of plaque in the arteries causing them to narrow, so any exercise we planned had to be very gentle and manageable for him.
Fortunately, even a daily brisk walk has massive benefits for your circulation. If smoking has damaged your arteries, exercise can help develop smaller blood vessels which can help bypass any blockages. Gentle aerobic exercise will help improve your circulation and all over health and fitness, and will also help manage stress, a big contributor to circulatory problems.
Talking of which...
3) Relax deeper and more often
Prolonged and intense stress is awful for your circulation. The antidote to stress is to relax often, manage the demands life places upon you so you don't feel overwhelmed, and do things that you enjoy. Gentle exercise, as I've mentioned, is a relaxant; walking in nature can help lower blood pressure; and laughing with friends is also a wonderful way to unwind. Find a good relaxation CD or download and make a point of relaxing deeply to it three times a week.
I taught Brian to relax as part of his stop smoking strategy and he found that he felt more "chilled" after his daily twenty-minute walk. He also started to lose weight because of the changes we made.
4) Try natural circulation boosters
Certain foods have been shown to boost blood circulation naturally. Garlic has been used for centuries to improve blood circulation and help heart health (1). And a recent study conducted by Dr Ann Walker, senior lecturer in human nutrition at Reading University, found that about 1g of dried ginger taken every day can improve the circulation in the hands and feet by expanding the blood vessels.
Also, avoid too many processed carbohydrates and eat a good balanced diet full of antioxidants found in fresh vegetables and fruit.
5) Try self-hypnosis
I've treated dozens of people like Brian over the years who wanted help in addition to what their doctors could provide. Along with encouraging sensible exercise, weight loss if needed, and smoking cessation, we can actually treat poor blood circulation directly with hypnotic suggestion. And research backs this up (2).
By strongly imagining your hands (and/or feet) warming up, you can, perhaps on your very first attempt, get more blood flowing into these extremities which will improve your blood circulation, at least temporarily.
You can do this by closing your eyes and taking a few moments to relax. Then just imagine warming your hands around an open fire. Notice how doing this vividly actually makes them feel a little warmer as blood starts to flow into them.
For a taste of this exercise, click on the free audio download below.
6) Manage anger
"I get so angry!" Brian informed me almost defiantly. "I can't help it and I'm not going to change now!"
Actually, anyone can learn to get a handle on their angry outbursts (see How to Control Your Anger).
Brian didn't seem that concerned about calming down his frequent angry tirades until I discussed with him a few sobering anger stats, such as the fact that getting very angry very often is a bigger predictor of early death through heart disease than smoking, bad diet, and lack of exercise put together (3). In fact, even recalling times you felt very angry can be bad for the heart (4).
7) Make your health your priority
Blood circulation is one indicator of how healthy (or not) you are. Get yourself checked out often by having regular blood pressure checks, take exercise, watch obesity and stress (including that oh so destructive anger), eat healthily, and use self-hypnosis. Because as Mahatma Gandhi once said:
"It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver."