We usually don’t see our blood, with the exception of occasional blood work or cuts, so we often take for granted the many important functions it performs. Of course, the most crucial function is the delivery of oxygen from the lungs to the farthest corners of our body and, in turn, the removal of carbon dioxide and other waste products. Our immune cells, hormones, and signalling molecules all travel through the blood to get to their destinations and support our body’s vital processes. All the nutrients we get from food are transported to the organs and tissues via blood. Thanks to the amazing coagulating properties, when a blood vessel breaks, the blood in the affected area gels up to stop bleeding. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The success of all these critical blood functions largely depends on healthy circulation. If circulation is impaired, all these processes cannot be carried out completely. As a result, the organs and tissues are starved for oxygen and nutrients, and in the case of chronic insufficiency of blood flow, you can develop serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions.
Poor blood flow can be caused by smoking, pregnancy, eating disorders, and weight gain, or it can be simply a result of getting old. Whatever the case might be, the first step to forestall a health disaster is recognizing the existing blood circulation problem.
Numbness and tingling. Usually experienced in the extremities, these very common symptoms indicate a restricted blood flow. (You know when you sit on your leg and, after a while, you can’t really feel it? That’s what happens when blood flow is blocked.) This is often referred to as “pins and needles.”
Cold hands and feet. Optimal blood circulation ensures a healthy and comfortable body temperature level, so it follows then that restricted blood flow impairs temperature regulation. As a result, you may feel chilly, especially in the extremities.
Pain. If you have poor blood circulation in your legs, you may experience pain in your calf muscles and feet, especially after a long time sitting or standing.
Cognitive problems. In order to work properly, your brain needs a constant supply of blood. When the blood flow to the brain is substandard, you may experience memory issues and concentration problems. Changes in the blood pressure in the body associated with circulatory problems also affect normal brain function.
Loss of appetite. Our food is digested in the gastrointestinal tract. When there’s not enough blood reaching the GI tract, the metabolic processes slow down. A rare condition that causes inflammation of the blood vessels can cause appetite problems as well.
Fatigue. When your blood doesn’t circulate properly, your heart has to work harder to pump it through. As a result, you run out of energy and get tired faster. Because of insufficient oxygen supply, your muscles take longer to recover after a work session. Chronic circulatory problems often translate into chronic fatigue.
Muscle cramps. The reason why you may experience muscle cramps due to poor blood circulation is two-fold: on one hand, due to inadequate blood flow, your muscles stiffen, which leads to cramps. On the other hand, insufficient blood supply means insufficient delivery of nutrients and minerals, leading to cramping as well.
Skin discoloration. A pale or blue tone of the skin is often an indicator of circulatory problems, and it’s not just your face or extremities that are affected—you may notice a change in color of your nose, lips, ears, and even nipples. Another related symptom is livedo reticularis, or mottled skin, a term that stands for lacy patches of purple discoloration.
Don’t get stressed if you start noticing some of these signs. Chronic problems develop over a long period of time, so the sooner you address the problem and take steps to improve your blood flow, the better. Healthy lifestyle and stress reduction, along with physical activity and massage therapy, can prove helpful in restoring healthy blood flow and getting you back into top shape.