Heart disease remains the number one cause of death worldwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in every 4 deaths in the United States is due to heart disease annually.
To live a long and healthy life, we should all focus on keeping our hearts as healthy as possible. A healthy heart keeps circulation flowing, which is needed to feed the body’s tissues, organs, and muscles with important nutrients and oxygen.
Lifestyle choices, like diet and exercise, have a major influence on heart health. These lifestyle habits can help reduce your risk of heart disease and keep your circulation moving along smoothly.
Why is Circulation Important?
Circulation is the way that the heart pumps blood around the body. Maintaining good blood flow is crucial for heart and whole-body health.
The body is constantly circulating blood, with every beat of your heart. About 5 quarts of blood are pumped through your blood vessels every minute.
This constant blood flow is critical to the health of all organs and tissues. Blood delivers oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. And it helps get rid of waste by taking it to the liver and kidneys for excretion.
When your circulation isn’t optimal it is usually due to an underlying disease or a blockage. Poor circulation is more common in people over 40, overweight and sedentary. Health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, or other heart diseases can increase your risk of poor circulation.
If your circulation is poor, this means the rest of your body is not getting the critical nutrients it needs or is unable to effectively clear out waste products.
Symptoms of poor circulation may include:
- Numbness or tingling at the extremities
- Low energy
- Fluid retention
- Muscle soreness or weakness
- “Pins and needs” sensation
- Cold extremities, such as finger sand toes
- Chest pain
- Bulging veins
What helps circulation so you can avoid these symptoms and keep your heart healthy? Luckily, there are several heart healthy habits you can implement to help improve blood flow and support good circulation.
How to Improve Blood Circulation
To improve blood flow, there are many simple things you can do. These habits will help keep your circulation moving and your heart healthy:
- Regular exercise.
Exercise gets your heart pumping and circulation moving. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity daily like walking, jogging, or swimming. It doesn’t matter what type of exercise you do, as long as you are consistent with your routine, so pick something you enjoy.
- Watch your sodium intake.
Too much salt can increase your blood pressure and put strain on your heart. You might be surprised to know that the majority of your sodium intake does not come from the salt shaker. Most of your daily sodium intake is already in the foods you eat, especially processed foods. Reduce your sodium intake effortlessly by decreasing the amount of processed foods you eat and focusing more on eating unprocessed whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. A quick and easy tool that will help you determine if something has excess amounts of sodium is by looking at the food labels on the packaged goods that you buy. Your daily goal should be less than 2000mg, so if that instant soup or the bag of chips you are snacking on reads at 1000mg, you may want to re-think that snack.
- Manage your stress.
Too much stress can put a strain on your heart and increase your blood pressure, putting a strain on healthy circulation. Engaging in regular stress reducing activities can help. Try meditation, spending time in nature, or a hobby you enjoy to help decrease stress. Even the simple act of closing your eyes and taking controlled deep breaths in the middle of a hectic work day will do wonders at improving circulation and reducing stress.
- Get a massage.
Regular massage can improve blood flow by releasing tight areas and boosting circulation. Massage also helps reduce stress. Try to get a massage at least every few months to keep your circulation moving smoothly.
- Decrease alcohol.
Alcohol raises blood pressure and decreases blood flow. While many believe that alcohol (more specifically red wine) is “heart healthy”, this is only when it is consumed in very moderate amounts. Drinking too much can cause significant health problems. Stick to no more than one serving at a time and avoid drinking on consecutive days.
- Stay hydrated.
A majority of blood’s composition is water, so it’s no surprise that when you are dehydrated, circulation and blood flow can become sluggish. Aim to drink at least half your body weight in water per day to stay well-hydrated. If you don’t like plain water, try adding lemon, strawberries, or cucumber slices to jazz up the flavor. Sparkling water works too!
- Don’t smoke.
Smoking causes damage to your heart and blood vessels, which can impact circulation. It is best to avoid smoking or quit if you are already a smoker.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
When you are overweight, your heart has to work harder to keep the blood pumping to where it is needed. This is also one of the risk factors for poor circulation. The best thing to do to improve circulation and blood flow is to maintain a healthy body weight. If you are overweight, losing just 5-10% of your body weight can significantly reduce the strain on your heart and improve your blood flow
- Get Enough Sleep
A good night’s rest allows your body to recharge and recover after a busy day. Allowing your body to re-energize will help it optimize immunity and circulation. Aim for 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep to maximize the effects of the well-deserved rest.
- Smile and Show Some Love
A smile and acts of kindness have been linked to reduced levels of stress and cardiovascular disease. Even a forced smile has been shown to help with the release of “good hormones” like oxytocin which improves circulation and overall health.
If you want to keep your heart and blood flow pumping, a healthy lifestyle is the best thing you can do for your ticker. These tips are just ideas for simple things you can do for your heart that have a big impact.
The important thing is to make a healthy lifestyle a habit. Engaging consistently in exercise, choosing healthy foods, and managing your stress is the best way to stay healthy. Pick foods and activities you enjoy, so you are more likely to stick with them.
If you are already living a healthy lifestyle, yet are still having challenges with poor circulation, it is always best to speak to your doctor to see if there are any underlying conditions that might need addressing.