I skied once in my life, in college, and that was it. Freezing cold hands and feet just weren’t worth it back then. Little did I know that if I had been eating better (Froot Loops aren’t a healthy choice?) and doing just a bit of exercise (literally none at all) I might have enjoyed it! My fingers and toes were suffering from poor circulation. This can be caused by lack of exercise, smoking, poor diet, stress, or a combination. In college, that was all me. Cold temperatures make blood vessels in the hands and feet constrict, steering blood toward the more vital organs. Your poor fingers and toes get the brunt of it.
There are a few ways to help boost your circulation naturally:
- Smoking: Stop. It raises the risk of peripheral artery disease (PAD) or poor circulation in the legs. The toxic smoke thickens blood, increases the risk of clots, raises blood pressure and heart rate, narrows arteries, reduces healthy blood getting to organs, and forces the heart to work harder—all things that increase heart attack or stroke risk.
- Exercise. Just do some. A little, three or four times a week, improves circulation. Blood moves faster through arteries and veins whenever the heart pumps faster, boosting circulation. Walk, jog, swim, dance; all are effective, low-impact exercises for circulation.
- Diet. Change it. Make some swaps and improve circulation. Drop the processed, high salt, fat, and sugar, and replace them with real, whole foods available around the perimeter of the grocery store such as fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats. Here are some specifics:
- Mackerel, salmon and other cold water fish along with certain nuts like walnuts, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. They inhibit clotting and decrease inflammation.
- Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins C and E to help strengthen capillary walls.
- Garlic and onion are rich in salicylic acid, are strong anti-inflammatory agents, and boost circulation.
- Ginger, cayenne, and turmeric are powerful vasodialator spices to add to food or take in supplement form.
- Pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds are phytoestrogens that can expand small arteries to improve blood flow.
- Water! Even a bit of dehydration can decrease circulation by making blood thicker and harder to move through the body.
- Seeds, nuts, avocado, and wheatgerm are good sources of vitamin E which thins the blood, helping it move efficiently through vessels.
- Ginkgo biloba has been used for centuries to boost circulation by opening blood vessels and reducing the stickiness of blood platelets.
Good circulation is a sign of good health. Your hands and feet will thank you.