How to Improve Blood Circulation Naturally (Research Based)
By Jenny Hills - Food & Nutrition, Health
Having good blood circulation is essential to staying healthy. Improving your blood circulation helps your blood flow to all your vital organs, supplying them with needed oxygen and nutrients. You may need to improve your blood circulation if you frequently have cold feet and toes, swelling in your feet, pins and needles in your legs or arms, or get fatigued easily. Poor blood circulation could also be a cause of hair loss, dizziness, or headaches.
There are a number of ways to improve blood flow in your body. For example, many foods help to stimulate circulation, keep the blood healthy, and prevent problems with your arteries. You can also boost blood circulation by exercising regularly, managing stress properly, and keeping yourself well hydrated.
In this article, you will learn about the many lifestyle choices you can make to help improve blood circulation. Most of these natural remedies to improve blood flow are very easy to use and will boost your general health.
What is Blood Circulation and Why It’s So Important
Blood circulation in your body is regulated by your heart which is located to the left of your breastbone. According to Dr. James Beckerman on WebMD, your heart beats around 100,000 times a day and pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood. Blood flows through a series of arteries that feed your body’s tissues. Blood also removes waste products and promotes good health.1
Good circulation, therefore, is necessary to maintain good blood pressure, stabilize body core temperature, maintain pH levels, and keep all cells in your body healthy.
Poor blood circulation can negatively affect every organ in your body. Usually, your will notice the effects of poor blood flow in your fingers and toes. However, poor circulation can cause dizziness, breathlessness, high blood pressure, chest pains, and varicose veins.
What Affects Blood Circulation?
There are several factors that can affect blood circulation. For example, The Ochsner Journal reports that aging and high blood pressure can cause “coronary insufficiency” – poor blood flow through the veins. Very often, aging and high blood pressure go hand-in-hand. As we age, our arteries lose some of their elasticity and become narrower. This causes an increase in blood pressure as the heart works harder to circulate blood through the body.
Other factors that can affect blood circulation are being overweight, diabetes, smoking, high cholesterol levels, and lack of physical exercise. These factors cause various cardiovascular problems and can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.
Therefore, it’s important to always be aware of the need to improve blood circulation in your body. This is one of the best ways to prevent heart problems as you grow older.
How to Improve Blood Flow in Your Body?Here are some tips and suggestions that can make a big improvement to your blood flow and improve blood circulation:
Physical exercise will improve your circulation and make you feel better in general. Any physical activity that gets your heart pumping more blood is good for you.
The American Heart Association recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week. They say that one of the biggest benefits of regular exercise is improved blood circulation which reduces your risk of heart disease.2 This will also help you control your weight, reduce cholesterol, and manage stress better – all factors that help to boost blood circulation even more.
If you have had a sedentary lifestyle, it is recommended to become more active by walking more. Other activities to get yourself moving and improve blood flow are jogging, swimming, climbing stairs, or playing sports.3
A very simple way to improve blood circulation every day is to do stretching exercises. Regular stretching throughout the day is especially important if you have to sit at a desk all day for your work. Getting up from your seat and walking around can help you avoid the negative consequences of sitting too much.
A study from 2016 on the connection between stretching and blood flow found that it benefits your cardiovascular system. The researchers found that stretching increased blood flow to tissues and organs in the body.4
Massage can help reduce muscle inflammation and tension by increasing blood flow in the body. Inflammation can cause various serious health issues and massaging can help to release the buildup of toxins and increase blood circulation.
Massaging your legs is also a great and easy way to improve leg circulation and get blood moving to your feet and toes.
The journal Medical Science Monitor reported that massage boosts blood flow and can help to alleviate lower back pain. The effect of rubbing the skin increased skin temperature and enhanced blood flow to the massaged area.5
You can massage with essential oils diluted in a carrier oil. There are many great essential oils that improve blood circulation. For example, the journal Phytomedicine reported that rosemary oil improves blood circulation and alleviates pain.6 Also, a study from 2014 found that peppermint oil can help to boost blood flow to the scalp and promote hair growth naturally.7
If you are interested in learning more about essential oils you can find useful information in my e-book Magical Aromatherapy. This book will help you to discover the power of essential oils and the most effective ways to use them.
4. Enjoy a healthy diet
Enjoying a healthy diet will not just boost your immune system, but it will also improve your vascular health. A healthy diet should consist of plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats (found in fish, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and avocados).
The British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology published a study on the effect of green leafy vegetables on blood circulation. The researchers found that nitrates in vegetables help to improve blood flow and boost plasma nitrate levels.8
There are also foods that help to prevent clogged arteries. Garlic, oily fish, berries, spinach, green tea, and oats all have properties that help improve vascular health and increase blood flow.
5. Drink plenty of water
One of the negative effects of dehydration is a reduction in blood flow. Drinking plenty of water is a great and cheap way to improve blood circulation naturally.
The Journal of Physiology reported that a lack of water affects blood flow. Researchers found that during exercising, blood flow to muscles decreases significantly if a person is dehydrated.9 This can lead to headaches, muscles aches, and fatigue.
Most experts recommend drinking 8-12 glasses of water a day. However, if you regularly exercise or live in a hot climate, you should increase your water intake to keep yourself properly hydrated. You should also watch your alcohol and caffeine intake as consuming too much can leave you dehydrated.
6. Reduce caffeine and alcohol intake
To help keep your blood circulation operating normally, you should reduce the amount of caffeine or alcohol you consume. Although moderate amounts of caffeine can help to boost heart health, and even contribute to liver health, too much caffeine can have a negative effect on your circulation.
Researchers have found that too much caffeine can affect cerebral blood flow. They reported in the journal Human Brain Mapping that regularly drinking excessive amounts of caffeine has a negative effect on blood supply to the brain. Too much caffeine also raises blood pressure and increases heart rate.10
Similar results were found when looking at the link between alcohol and blood circulation. A study from 2008 found that one glass of red wine can have a positive effect on the blood vessels and heart. However, although blood flow continued to increase after two drinks, the blood vessels can’t expand and this causes high blood pressure and an increased risk of developing heart disease.11
7. Drink green tea
To help improve blood circulation and boost your heart health, drink green tea regularly. Green tea contains powerful antioxidants that protect your vascular system. The therapeutic properties of green tea also help to dilate your blood vessels, thus boosting blood circulation.
Regularly drinking green tea has been found to have a preventative effect on cardiac problems developing. The journal Current Medicinal Chemistry reported that green tea has a beneficial effect on the blood. For example, the study found that consuming green tea regularly helped to increase blood flow in chronic smokers. Regularly consuming green tea also helped to reduce the risk of coronary artery disease.12
For best results, drink 2-3 cups of green tea daily to help keep your blood circulation healthy.
8. Limit salt intake
To help blood flow through the body and increase circulation, you should limit the amount of salt in your diet. We know that too much salt is linked to high blood pressure and heart disease, however, some studies have found that salt also directly affects blood flow.
Dr. Jennifer Keogh on WebMD says that reducing salt in the diet has a positive effect on blood vessels. This helps to regulate blood flow properly and improves the health of blood vessels.13
Doctors recommend avoiding processed foods or looking for pre-prepared foods that are labeled “very low sodium.” You should also be careful of prepared sauces, bouillon cubes, and soy sauce as these generally contain high levels of salt.
9. Ginkgo biloba
Ginkgo biloba is an herb that has been shown to boost circulation and keep your blood flowing through your veins. Ginkgo biloba also has an antioxidant effect on your cardiovascular system and brain function. In my e-book The Herbal Remedies Guide, I’ve already mentioned the ginkgo leaf as a remedy for several ailments. It is a versatile herb that strengthens memory and improves circulation.
The University of Maryland reports that the way ginkgo biloba improves blood circulation is by opening up the blood vessels. This can help to prevent or reverse the effects of poor circulation in your legs.14 Other studies into the benefits of gingko biloba have found that it increases blood flow to the brain and can help treat the symptoms of dementia.15
Using hot water on your body can help to improve circulation, increase blood flow, and release tense muscles. Taking a warm bath with some essential oils helps you relax and allows oxygen to flow better through your body, thus benefiting your general health.
Dr. Jerrold Petrofsky from Loma Linda University found that a warm bath of 30 minutes helps to improve blood circulation and reduce blood pressure.16 Other studies have found that sauna steam at 60°C for 15 minutes also helps to increase blood flow and improves cardiac function.17
While in a warm bath or sauna, you can use a body scrub to stimulate circulation. Try to inhale the steam which will help open your nasal passages and relieve congestion. This lets you breathe more easily which is another way to improve circulation naturally.
11. Use hot and cold treatment
You can also use contrasting hot and cold treatments to help improve blood circulation. Hot and cold treatment for circulation is also called contrast hydrotherapy. You can use hot and cold contrast treatments to improve blood flow to your legs or arms.
The journal Physical Therapy reported that contrast baths can help to stimulate blood flow. The study found that blood circulation was improved when patients immersed their limb for 3 minutes in a 40°C hot bath for 3 minutes then in 18°C water for 1 minute, followed by 40°C bath for 10 minutes.18
12. Elevate your legs
If you have problems with poor blood circulation in your legs, you should keep them elevated as much as possible to improve blood flow. You should try to improve circulation in your legs if you have achiness, burning, or discomfort in your legs after walking, cramps at night, or tingling in your feet.
The UC David Vascular Center recommends elevating your legs to instantly relieve pain and swelling from tired legs. You should keep your legs above the heart 3-4 times a day for 15 minutes at a time. If you have to sit for long periods of time and you can’t lie down, you should bend your legs several times during the day to increase blood circulation to your feet and toes.19
Elevating your legs as recommended above also helps to prevent deep vein thrombosis.
13. Manage stress levels
Learning how to manage mental or emotional stress can have a positive effect on your blood circulation. Too much stress can play havoc with your cardiovascular system and can cause chest pains.
The British Heart Journal found that blood flow is reduced when people are undergoing stress. This is because stress causes the blood vessels to constrict and reduce circulation.20 The University of Maryland reported that laughing helps to reduce stress and increase blood flow through the body.21
Apart from watching a funny movie to bring your stress levels down and boost blood circulation, there are many other natural ways to manage stress effectively.
14. Quit smoking
Improving your vascular health and increasing blood circulation is one reason to quit smoking for good. Smoking damages your heart and also causes a buildup of plaque in your arteries which leads to poor circulation.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute warns that even second-hand smoke can be detrimental to your heart and cause vascular problems. Doctors recommend avoiding any kind of cigarette or pipe smoke to reduce the risk of dying from heart disease.22
15. Eat foods that stimulate blood flow
You can also add foods to your diet that are known to have a positive effect on blood circulation. Here are some of the best foods that stimulate blood flow:
Ginger. Ginger helps to stimulate circulation. The European Journal of Experimental Biology reported that ginger has a beneficial effect on the heart and helps to thin the blood. The researchers stated that “ginger stimulates blood circulation.”23
Dark chocolate. The antioxidant properties of dark chocolate may help to give your circulation a boost. The Journal of the American Heart Association said that dark chocolate helps blood vessels dilate and it improves the symptoms of peripheral artery disease (reduced blood flow due to a buildup of artery plaque).24
Garlic. Garlic helps to cleanse the blood and is a powerful antibiotic that has benefits for your heart. One study from 2004 found that regularly consuming garlic helps to increase blood flow to cells.25
Cayenne pepper. Capsaicin is the compound that gives cayenne pepper and chilies their spicy kick. The medicinal properties of capsaicin can be used to stimulate blood circulation. The British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology reported that patches containing capsaicin can help to increase blood flow to the skin to help relieve pain.26
16. Deep breathing
Deep breathing has many health benefits such as improving the flow of blood and lymph fluid, improving lung function, stimulating relaxation and creating an overall sense of well being.
A study published in the Austrian Journal of Phisiotherapy found that ankle exercise combined with deep breathing improved blood flow velocity in the femoral vein.27 The femoral vein is located in the upper thigh and pelvic region and is one of the larger vessels in the venous system.
James Achanyi-Fontem, is a Senior Health Journalist and Communication Consultant. He worked as a health journalist and broadcaster for 30 years with Radio Cameroon and later Cameroon Radio Television, CRTV before retiring in 2005 to engage fully with Cameroon Link (Human Assistance Programme). Cameroon Link is a registered charity, not-for-profit organisation involved in the promotion of community health, humanitarian assistance, promotion of women and child rights through involvement of communities in Cameroon for mother and child health care. Cameroon Link is a partner to Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Farm Radio International (FRI), International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN Africa), World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA). As the intermediary of Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Cameroon Link is engaged to implement a Cameroon Rural Radio story design Programming through an investigative research, which aims to discover through interviewing beneficiaries of health programmes on their interests, documenting and disseminating new ideas about how radio stations produce and air Healthy Communities Radio Programs in Cameroon.