What is Poor Blood Circulation?
When you have poor blood circulation, your blood cannot sufficiently reach certain parts of your body. Poor circulation will prevent parts of your body from getting the nutrients and oxygen they need and from removing wastes.
Poor blood circulation often occurs in the lower parts of your body such as the legs and feet. When you are standing or sitting, your leg muscles and blood vessels in the veins need to work hard to pump the blood back to your heart. Maintaining good blood circulation in your legs and feet can help you stay healthy.
Inactivity, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, living with diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol are risk factors for poor circulation associated with peripheral arterial disease. Consult your doctor.
What are the Signs of Poor Leg Circulation?
You may have poor leg circulation if you experience:
The feeling of discomfort and aching in your calves and feet can be a sign of poor circulation.
Blood pooling due to poor circulation in the lower legs causes puffiness and swelling in the lower legs.
When blood flow is restricted, it can lead to temperature changes in the skin and extremities.
This is pain that happens when you walk. It may be caused by poor leg circulation due to narrowed arteries.
Poor circulation can cause pain in the legs, ankles or feet even when you’re at rest or not exercising.
Check your skin and nails regularly - dry skin, brittle nails or hair loss on the legs and feet could signal poor circulation.
What Causes Poor Leg Circulation?
Leg circulation may deteriorate as you grow older or if you do not maintain an active lifestyle. Sitting or standing for too long can cause poor leg circulation because your leg muscles are not activated and may lose their function over time.
Several factors can increase your risk of poor leg circulation:
especially when you reach 50 years old or older
We recommend for you to talk to your doctor if you have symptoms of poor leg circulation combined with any of the risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or smoking.
Certain medical conditions can also cause poor leg circulation
These medical conditions are to be diagnosed by a medical professional.
Peripheral artery disease (PAD)1
PAD occurs when your arteries (blood vessels that bring blood to your limbs) are narrowed, making it difficult for blood to reach certain parts of your body. Factors that can increase your risk for PAD include high cholesterol, obesity and high blood pressure.
The veins in your legs carry blood that contains waste products back to your heart. These veins have one-way valves to keep blood from flowing backward. When you have Varicose Veins, the valves in your leg veins don’t work properly, causing blood to pool in the veins.
Diabetes and diabetic neuropathy3,4
When you have diabetes, the high level of glucose in your blood can narrow and harden your blood vessels over time. This will lead to poor blood circulation which causes pain and cold feeling on your legs.
Leg Circulation Explained
Your legs act as a "second heart"
Returning blood to the heart from lower parts of the body, such as the feet and legs, is hard work for your circulation because the blood has to be pushed ‘uphill’. To do this, the circulation needs help from muscles that surround the veins. When we walk, muscles in the feet and legs help to pump blood upwards. The more the muscles work the greater the squeezing action and the easier it is to push blood back to the heart. In effect, muscles in areas such as the feet and legs work as your "second heart".
Blood is very important because it carries and delivers many things that the body needs to stay well.
Arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood away from your heart to the legs, arms and other parts of the body allowing your muscles to work.
Veins carry the used blood back to your heart. Returning blood to the heart from the feet and legs is very difficult as blood has to be pushed ‘uphill’ back to the heart.
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- Peripheral Artery Disease. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Accessed July 31, 2020. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/peripheral-artery-disease
- Varicose Veins. Mayo Clinic website. Accessed June 24, 2021. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/varicose-veins/symptoms-causes/syc-20350643
- What to Know About Poor Circulation. MedicalNewsToday website. Updated January 17, 2020. Accessed July 31, 2020. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322371#takeaway
- Foot Care. Diabetes Australia website. Accessed June 16, 2021. https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/living-with-diabetes/preventing-complications/foot-care/
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