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If the blood flow to the body is not working optimally, this can manifest itself in various symptoms. Cold feet and fingers are the most harmless of these complaints. In the worst case, it can be dangerous. However, there are many simple ways to promote blood circulation.
If the blood circulation is disturbed
The human body is completely covered with blood vessels. The vessels that carry the blood away from the heart are called arteries or arteries. They transport oxygen and nutrients to the organs. The veins, on the other hand, transport the blood back to the heart. Both arteries and veins branch very strongly and form a dense network of larger and smaller blood vessels. In this way, the entire body can be supplied with blood down to the smallest tissue structures.
The blood performs various tasks in the body:
- It transports the vital oxygen into the organs and tissues.
- It transports nutrients from the digestive tract to the individual cells.
- It brings hormones to the parts of the body where they are needed.
- Conversely, the blood transports carbon dioxide, pollutants and waste products from the organs and cells to the excretory organs or the lungs.
- The blood also transports substances that are of central importance for immune defense and wound healing.
Blood flow also plays an important role in regulating body temperature. The more blood is supplied to the skin, the warmer it is. When blood circulation is disturbed, parts of the body are no longer adequately supplied with oxygen and nutrients. This can lead to unpleasant symptoms, but also to serious dangers.
Symptoms and consequences of circulatory disorders
Slight circulatory disorders are often noticeable through cold and pale skin, especially on the hands and feet. Tingling or slight numbness are also possible. Muscle cramps can also indicate a malfunction. Since circulatory disorders can progress over time, such symptoms should always be clarified with a doctor.
More serious circulatory disorders are expressed in pain, severe numbness and muscle weakness. In addition, wounds do not heal as well and there is hardly any or no pulse at all in the affected areas - usually on the legs or arms. If blood vessels close completely, the worst case scenario is tissue death, a stroke, or a heart attack. It is therefore advisable to take measures in good time to promote blood circulation.
Acute and chronic circulatory disorders
Acute circulatory disorders occur, for example, when a blood clot gets stuck in a vessel. It then blocks blood flow and prevents blood flow to certain parts of the body. There is a particular risk if the heart or parts of the brain are no longer supplied with blood by such a vascular occlusion. Signs of an acute circulatory disorder include sudden pain, weakness, pallor, fainting or lack of pulse. In the event of such sudden symptoms, an emergency doctor should be informed as soon as possible. Acute vascular occlusion is a serious emergency!
Chronic circulatory disorders are far more common. They arise over years and progress slowly. They are mostly caused by blood lipids and waste products from the body, which are deposited in the blood vessels and narrow them. The most common chronic circulatory disorder mainly affects the arms and legs and is called "peripheral arterial occlusive disease" (PAD).
Causes of PAD and other circulatory disorders
The most common reason for circulatory disorders is the so-called arteriosclerosis or also arterial calcification. Inflammation of the blood vessels, injuries or embolisms are also possible triggers. Atherosclerosis develops over years and decades and is primarily a result of unhealthy lifestyle. These are the risk factors:
- an unhealthy diet high in fat and meat,
- Lack of B vitamins, calcium deficiency, potassium deficiency or magnesium deficiency,
- Lack of movement, long sitting,
- frequent alcohol consumption,
- High blood pressure,
- increased cholesterol and high blood lipid levels,
- Diabetes mellitus (abnormally high blood sugar),
- and certain genetic factors.
Men are affected more often than women, older people more often than younger people.
Stages of circulatory problems in the legs
With PAD, the arteries gradually narrow until the blood flow is seriously disrupted. In many cases, it affects not only the vessels of the legs, but also the arms or arteries that lead to the brain or heart. If countermeasures are not taken here, a heart attack or a stroke may occur in the long term.
The disease is divided into four different stages. In the first stage, the arteries are narrowed, but there are no symptoms yet. In stage 2, leg pain occurs during exercise. The reason: If the muscles are stressed, for example when walking, they need more oxygen. Due to the constricted blood vessels, this can no longer be supplied in sufficient quantities. The muscles react with pain to signal the lack of oxygen. Therefore, those affected have to stop again and again to let the pain subside. Because many then act as if they want to look at the display in a shop window, PAVK is also called "shop window disease".
In the third stage, the legs and feet hurt not only when under stress, but also at rest. The pain is particularly severe at night and when the legs are raised. Finally, in the fourth stage, wounds no longer heal well. Ulcers appear on the legs. If the disease progresses, the tissue dies and in the worst case there is a risk of amputation.
Another form of circulatory disorder is the so-called Raynaud syndrome. The disease occurs in episodes in which individual fingers or toes are suddenly no longer adequately supplied with blood. White and later blue fingers appear. After a while, the constriction in the blood vessel resolves again and the fingers turn red. At the same time, those affected often experience severe pain and long-lasting feelings of numbness.
Raynaud's syndrome occurs as a separate disease, but can also indicate another disease. For example, a nervous disorder or an autoimmune disease as the underlying disease is possible. Risk factors for the development of this circulatory disorder are stress, smoking, certain medications such as birth control pills or beta blockers, hormone changes and a lack of exercise. The symptoms occur especially in cold and wet conditions. Anyone affected by Raynaud's syndrome should therefore protect their hands and feet well from the cold.
Treatment methods for circulatory disorders
When blood circulation is restricted, medications that improve blood flow are usually used. They reduce the blood's ability to clot, making it "more fluid" and less clumping. In this way, no new blood clots are formed, which would put even more strain on the vessels. Vasodilating drugs may also be considered.
Severely narrowed blood vessels can be dilated with a catheter. In a small operation, the doctor inserts a balloon into the blocked vessel and stretches it there in order to make the blood flow better again. A network, the so-called stent, is used and keeps the blood vessel permanently open. Other surgical procedures are also possible. For example, certain nerves are sometimes severed, leading to vascular cramps. An artificial "detour", a so-called bypass, can also be placed around a blocked area.
Special walking training is also important for PAVK. Under supervision and precise guidance, patients train to walk to stimulate blood circulation and improve walking performance. Other forms of exercise therapy are also possible, for example special gymnastic exercises.
Important measures to promote blood circulation
In addition to the medical measures, you can do a lot yourself to promote blood circulation, even in the case of existing circulatory disorders:
- Quit smoking: Smoking is a significant risk factor for many serious illnesses, not just circulatory disorders. Nicotine favors narrowing and deposits in the blood vessels. In order to avoid serious consequences such as a heart attack or stroke, stopping smoking is now particularly important.
- Reduce alcohol: Regular alcohol consumption can have a negative impact on blood circulation. That is why it is important to reduce alcohol significantly or to avoid it altogether in the case of circulatory disorders.
- Reduce caffeine: An excess of caffeine is also not good for the blood circulation. It is therefore advisable to significantly reduce the consumption of coffee, black tea and cola.
- Change your diet: Nutrition plays an important role in the development of circulatory disorders. By switching to a healthier diet, you also protect the vessels. It is important to eat lots of fruits and vegetables. In contrast, meat and fat should only be consumed in small quantities and wholegrain products should be preferred instead of white flour. Sugar should be reduced as much as possible. Fish, nuts and olive oil contain healthy, polyunsaturated fatty acids - for example omega-3 fatty acids - which can have a positive effect on blood circulation.
- Compensate for deficiencies: With a balanced, healthy diet, there is rarely a lack of nutrients. However, if a deficiency of B vitamins, magnesium, calcium or potassium is suspected or has been proven, it can be compensated for with nutritional supplements to promote blood circulation. However, it is important to consult with the doctor treating you.
- Pay attention to the amount of drinking: A sufficient hydration is essential so that the blood is diluted as well as possible. It should be at least two liters a day, more on hot days and during sporting activities. Water, herbal tea and highly diluted juice spritzers are particularly suitable. Soft drinks should be avoided due to the high sugar content.
- Reduce obesity: Obesity is a major risk factor for circulatory disorders. It is often associated with high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus and high blood lipids. All of these factors favor arteriosclerosis and thus disturbances in the blood circulation. Therefore, it is advisable to reduce the excess weight through a change in diet and more exercise.
- Exercise: If you sit a lot and move little, you are more prone to circulatory disorders. On the other hand, if the muscles are challenged, the blood circulation in the muscle itself and in the surrounding tissue increases. That's why it's important to get more exercise. It should be decided in consultation with the doctor which sports are suitable and possible. This is especially true for people who have not exercised for a long time or who already suffer from circulatory disorders.
- Moving everyday life: It doesn't always have to be intensive training. Even more exercise in everyday life brings a lot. This includes, for example, regular walks or short relaxation exercises in between.
- Walking training: Regular walks are particularly important for people with poor circulation. If you feel pain in your legs while walking, you can do special walking training. You walk at a brisk pace until the pain begins and then take a break for about a minute. Afterwards you continue to run quickly and a little shorter distance than before. Ideally, you should take your next break just before the pain begins. This is the best way to train for half an hour to an hour every day. This walking training is particularly useful in the second stage of PAD. From the third stage, it should no longer be carried out. Now rest is indicated.
- Special gymnastic exercises: With certain exercises you can support the body in making diversions around narrowed blood vessels. These include, for example, punching and walking exercises. A little discipline is needed here: Training should be carried out three times a day for 20 to 30 minutes. Doctors and physiotherapists can give precise instructions.
- Treatment of underlying diseases: Those suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, gout or high cholesterol should do something about these problems early and regularly. The better these basic diseases are set, the lower the risk to the blood vessels. Therefore, you should take regular preventive and control examinations at the doctor and take medication strictly according to the regulations.
- Protection from the cold: Body parts in which blood circulation is already restricted should be protected from the cold. Wearing warm shoes and gloves, thermal soles or hand warmers can help. Protection from the cold is particularly important in Raynaud's syndrome. If in doubt, you should only spend a little time outdoors in cold and wet weather.
- Raised sleeping position: If the legs are poorly supplied with blood, the upper body should be slightly elevated when sleeping. In this way, gravity helps with blood flow and the blood supply to the legs improves.
- Caring for your hands and feet: poor circulation means that badly healing wounds or ulcers can develop. To prevent this, care for your hands and feet particularly thoroughly with rich moisturizers. Comfortable shoes and natural materials for socks (cotton or wool) and shoes (leather or fabric) are also recommended. Diabetics in particular should take very good care of their feet. They often do not notice small injuries to the feet due to nerve disorders. These can then form large, difficult to heal wounds. Regular visits to diabetic foot care are recommended.
- Alternating showers: Morning alternating showers train the elasticity of the blood vessels and stimulate the circulation. To do this, switch between hot and cold water several times after the actual cleaning. The vessels widen in the hot water and contract in the cold water. Anyone who has not made any alternating showers or has a sensitive circulation should slowly approach this method.
- Sauna visits: Sauna sessions also stimulate blood circulation and circulation. However, medical consultation is required in advance if you have little or no sauna experience.
- Brush massages: Anyone who massages the skin with a special brush every day stimulates blood circulation and metabolism.
- Essential oils: Foot baths with certain essential oils can stimulate blood circulation. These include spruce, fir, mountain pine or rosemary.
- Medicinal plants to promote blood circulation: Several natural remedies are said to stimulate blood circulation. This includes, for example, rosemary. It can not only be used in foot or full baths, but can also be drunk as tea. Hawthorn and garlic can also help with circulatory disorders.
- Reduce stress: Stress, hectic pace and stress can play a role in the development of circulatory disorders. It is therefore advisable to ensure adequate breaks and enough balance. Restful sleep is particularly important. Relaxation techniques such as meditation, autogenic training, progressive muscle relaxation or yoga can also be very helpful for reducing stress.
- Gentle massages: A massage on hands and feet on the one hand provides more relaxation and on the other hand stimulates the blood circulation.
So there are many methods and ways to support the body in its regeneration. (fp)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Dipl. Geogr. Fabian Peters, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
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