Varicose veins. Forgetfulness. High blood pressure. These are only three of many health problems linked to poor blood circulation. Take a 1-minute test to help assess your circulation and learn what to do if you don’t like your score! Read more
Improve Your Circulation Health!
Test your blood circulation. Clench your fist and hold it until your knuckles turn white and you clearly see the bone under your skin. Continue to keep your hand clenched for 45 seconds. When you let go, how long does it take for the color to return to normal? (1-3 second = Normal circulation; 3-6 seconds = Impaired circulation; 6-10 seconds = Poor circulation.)
Research reveals that nearly 40% of all American adults have impaired blood flow. According to the American Heart Association, one in three adults nationwide has high blood pressure. Forty percent suffer some form of cardiovascular disease. More than one in three women has a heart-related disorder. These are just three of the many health problems associated with poor circulation. And people with a family history of vascular disease, those who smoke, have diabetes, or are over 50 are at particularly increased risk.
As reported by the National Institutes of Health, circulation grows sluggish over time. Exported out from the heart through valves and large arteries (which eventually fork off into thinner capillaries), blood carries oxygen to every corner of the body. As it travels, it collects carbon dioxide and returns it to the heart. From there it’s pumped into your lungs, where fresh oxygen is replenished. And the cycle begins again. Inevitably, as you age, this circulatory dynamic falters—affecting how you look and feel.
Varicose & spider veins are a perfect example. They affect half of all middle-aged adults; and nearly twice as many women as men. Whatever the cause (inactivity, family history, or even pregnancy), the scientific explanation all boils down to impaired circulation. After all, the veins in your legs must work against gravity in order to return blood to your heart. If your overall circulatory system is poor, then blood backs up and pools in your veins. This causes swelling, a loss of elasticity and, eventually, unattractive ruptures. By improving circulation, you reduce your risk of developing varicose veins and can certainly lower the chances of getting more.
Memory Loss may also be a legacy of poor circulation. According to the American Psychological Association, about one in five people over 65 years (and half over 85) suffer memory loss. Ideally, the brain should get 20% of the blood that’s pumped away from your heart. If forced to function with less than that, scientists find that the brain simply doesn’t work as well. What’s more, even in the healthiest individuals, blood flow to the brain decreases over time. So when circulation is impaired to begin with, cognitive function decreases further. The more blood and oxygen to your brain, the more alert you’ll stay and the better your memory will be.
No matter how good or bad your circulation, stimulating blood flow can only improve every metabolic process and system, from increased mental capacity to better elimination of toxins and improved heart function. Here are three practical ways to boost your circulation
1. Regular Exercise is the single best strategy. According to the National Institutes of Health, a regular exercise program (approved by your doctor) is the absolute best way to promote better circulation, stimulate your muscles, improve your heart rate, and keep joints more agile. If you don’t know how to begin, start out gently. Just go for a long walk at lunchtime or get off the bus a few stops early. Owning a dog is another great way to get exercise because you’ll have to walk it!
2. Therapeutic Massage is also helpful. If you can afford it, have a weekly massage. Ask the massage therapist to focus especially on your feet and legs, to encourage blood flow back to your heart and on to your brain. Very light circular massage of the lymphatic system is also a good idea. Improved lymphatic function helps ensure that metabolic waste is more easily and completely eliminated from internal organs and that clean blood can circulate throughout the body.
3. Herbal Remedies certainly can’t hurt. Calendula salve (a blended form of the homeopathic remedy derived from marigold flowers) can be extremely effective at soothing sore muscles and encouraging blood flow. If you suffer from varicose veins, try applying it directly to the affected areas of your legs, for relief from pain and to increase circulation where you need it most. Many naturopaths also prescribe ginkgo (a ground root, usually sold as capsule supplements) to improve memory and stimulate circulation.
Amazing-Health Tip: Yoga can also help circulation. Try "Viparita Karani" (Legs-Up-The-Wall). Simply lie on your back with your legs up against a wall, angled slightly perpendicular to the floor. Assume the pose 1-2 times daily, at first for only 1 minute. Gradually build up to 5 or even 10 minutes. (Important: when you’re ready to get up, put your feet on the floor and rest for 60 seconds. Then roll to your side before rising.)
The Recipe Box
■ 2 lbs mushrooms (assorted crimini, button &shiitake)
■ 4 cups cherry tomatoes
■ ½ cup white wine
■ 4 sprigs fresh thyme
■ 4 large garlic cloves, peeled & thinly sliced
■ ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
■ Flat-leaf parsley
■ Salt & pepper to taste
- Pre-heat oven to 425°.
- Arrange tomatoes on a cookie sheet, drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt & pepper. Bake 8-10 minutes, or until tomatoes start to burst. Set aside.
- In a large skillet, over a medium flame, brown sliced garlic in olive oil for 4-5 minutes, stirring every now and then. Remove from skillet and reserve.
- In the same skillet, turn flame to high. Add mushrooms, spreading them out in an even layer. Cook about 4 minutes without moving. Then stir, add thyme sprigs and continue cooking for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add white wine and cook until it has almost completely evaporated. Then stir to combine.
- Remove & discard thyme. Gently toss mushrooms, tomatoes and parsley. Transfer to a platter or shallow serving bowl and serve hot, warm or room temperature.
Serves 4 as a hot side dish atop fish or spaghetti. Also: mushrooms are a great source of antioxidants, which can help promote better blood circulation.