Blood circulation is essential for us to stay alive. The blood circulation in our bodies is caused by the pumping of our hearts, which provides a continuous supply of blood throughout the body through the blood vessels.
We need efficient blood circulation to transport oxygen and other important nutrients to every cell in the body, and to remove unwanted metabolic waste from the body. Our bodies can only stay healthy by maintaining cell-level metabolism, pH levels, and stable body temperature, all of which are achieved by efficient blood circulation.
If your blood flow becomes restricted to certain parts of the body for whatever reason, you may start to experience issues with your health. When your heart doesn’t pump strongly enough to circulate your blood around your body, you’ll most likely notice an effect in your toes or fingers, which won’t be receiving enough blood. Should you not be getting enough blood circulation to your brain or heart, you could be at risk of a number of more serious health concerns, including heart disease and stroke.
There are a number of key factors that affect blood circulation. Aging is a particularly common factor; the arteries lose some of their elasticity with age, and become smaller. This means that the heart has to work harder to pump the blood through the arteries to the rest of the body, which can cause high blood pressure and a decrease in circulation around the body.
Being overweight can lead to swelling in your lower legs and feet, slowing circulation. Smoking can lead to a build-up of plaque on the insides of the blood vessels and capillaries, which can cause high blood pressure and heart problems, as well as poor circulation. A lack of exercise can also lead to poor circulation.
How can you naturally improve blood flow to your brain and heart?
If your circulation is poor, it’s important that you take the steps to improve it, especially when it comes to your two most vital organs – your brain and your heart. Stay tuned for 11 tips on how to naturally improve blood circulation to these parts of your body:
1. Up your intake of cayenne pepper garlic, ginger and ginkgo biloba
There are a number of natural herbs, some more common than others, that have been shown to improve circulation. It’s worth adding cayenne pepper, garlic and ginger to your diet, as well as a lesser-known herb called ginkgo biloba, which can help promote healthy circulation.
The ginkgo leaf has been found in studies to strengthen memory and improve circulation. Some studies have found that ginkgo directly improves blood circulation by opening up the blood vessels and making blood less sticky.
If you don’t fancy cooking with raw gingko, you can take it as a supplement, in tablet, capsule or dried leaf tea form. Be aware that it may take a few weeks for you to see any effects from ginkgo.
2. Get enough sunlight
Here’s one of the simplest tricks for improving blood flow: get more sunlight. Studies have found that sunlight stimulates brain blood flow and circulation, and as little as 10 minutes of light exposure can increase brain blood flow in healthy people.
Depending on where you live around the world, you might find it more difficult to get your daily sunlight, especially in the winter months. In this case, make sure to take plenty of vitamin D supplements to make up for your lack of sunlight exposure.
3. Exercise more
Exercise is one of the simplest and most effective ways to increase brain blood flow and circulation. Studies have found that regular moderate exercise can increase blood flow to the brain and heart by as much as 15 percent.
If you’re not a fan of intense workouts, that’s fine – you don’t need to go in too hard to increase blood flow around your body. Simply taking a brisk 30-minute walk, three or four times each week, is good enough to get more blood and oxygen to your brain and heart and notice the benefits.
It’s thought that your foot’s impact on the ground while you’re walking sends pressure waves through the arteries, which helps the heart to pump more blood and oxygen to the brain.
4. Take resveratrol supplements
You might not have heard about resveratrol before, but if you’re looking to improve poor circulation, it’s about time you did! As a beneficial antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound, resveratrol can be found in red wine and red grapes.
It’s been proven to increase blood flow to the brain and heart, as well as prevent the development of neurodegenerative diseases. Research has found it can quickly help you get more blood and oxygen flowing to your brain, with even a very small dose of the supplement proving effective in increasing blood brain circulation and cognition.
It probably wouldn’t be wise to get all of your resveratrol from red wine, which isn’t the best for your health. Many people choose to take resveratrol supplements instead, which you can pick up from most health stores.
5. Expose your body to the cold
It might not sound like the most pleasant thing in the world, but research has found that exposing yourself to cold can also help you get more blood flowing to your brain and heart. Simply submerging your hand in icy water for a minute or two is thought to increase the speed of blood flow to the brain.
Cold exposure also stimulates the vagus nerve and supports the endocannabinoid system, improving blood flow to the heart too. Don’t fancy submerging yourself in an ice bath? Start small and finish your next shower with at least 30 seconds of cold water.
Work your way up to longer periods once you’ve got used to the sensation. A simpler method is to submerge your face, hand or foot in ice cold water.
6. Stock up on dark chocolate
Good news if you’re a dark chocolate lover – in controlled amounts, it’s been found to be beneficial to your blood flow. Dark chocolate contains cocoa, an ingredient that’s great for boosting circulation.
It’s thought that the flavonoids found in cocoa beans increase blood flow to key areas of the brain and heart for several hours after eating them. This in turn can lead to an improvement in cognitive performance.
Just make sure that you’re wise with your chocolate choices – you’ll need to choose a type of dark chocolate that is at least 70 percent cocoa. This is because the health benefits of chocolate with a lower cocoa content are overridden by their high sugar properties.
7. Try out acupuncture
Acupuncture is an alternative treatment that’s really taking off at the moment, and when you look at its proven health benefits, it’s easy to see why. It’s thought that acupuncture can increase brain blood flow and circulation, with one study finding that the therapy improved the speed of blood flow to both hemispheres of the brain during and after treatment.
It’s still early days when it comes to understanding the true benefits of acupuncture, but it’ll be interesting to see how it might be used as a medical treatment for poor circulation in the future.
8. Eat your omega-3s
Omega-3s fatty acids are the highest quality fats your heart and brain can receive. Because your body can’t make them itself, you’ll need to make sure you’re getting them from food or supplements.
Omega-3s have been shown in numerous studies to greatly reduce brain inflammation, improve memory and mood, and even protect against dementia and Alzheimer's disease. This is linked to their ability to naturally increase brain blood flow and circulation.
You can find omega-3 fatty acids in fish like salmon, cod, sardines and herring. If you’re not a fish fan, you can also supplement with fish oil tablets, which will make it easier to get your daily omega-3 intake. Walnuts, chia seeds and eggs are also good sources of omega-3.
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9. Ditch the cigarettes
Smoking is terrible for your health, and can play a big impact on your blood circulation. Smoking regularly can damage the main arteries supplying the brain, known as the carotid arteries, causing them to fill with plaque.
As this plaque builds up over time, your blood flow to your brain becomes limited, increasing your likelihood of suffering a stroke. It can be very difficult to quit smoking, and research suggests that nicotine may be as addictive hard drugs like heroin.
You might need to make several attempts at quitting before ultimate success, but the benefits of quitting more than make up for it – and even better? They’ll start taking effect just 48 hours after your last cigarette.
10. Increase your nitrate intake
Nitrates are naturally occurring compounds found in soils and plants, so it makes sense that some of the best sources of nitrates are plant foods like beets, celery, cabbage, spinach, and other leafy green vegetables. A number of studies have found that a diet rich in nitrates can help improve blood flow to the frontal lobe of the brain, enhancing cognitive function and reducing the risk of cognitive decline Beet juice is a particularly good source of nitrates, with research showing that it can help to widen blood vessels and improve oxygen and blood flow to the brain.
You can find beet juice in most supermarkets, although it’s an acquired taste, so you might want to mask the flavour by adding it to your smoothies if it’s not for you.
11. Drink plenty of water
Drinking plenty of water is one of the simplest ways to improve circulation. Try to drink it warm or at room temperature rather than iced if you’re struggling to drink the right amount every day.
Your blood is made up of about half water, so it’s important stay hydrated to keep it flowing around your body. Aim for drinking a minimum of eight glasses of water a day, and remember you’ll need to drink more if you exercise during the day or if it’s hot outside.
Some herbal teas are also good for your blood flow. Alcohol, sodas and other sugary drinks can have the opposite effect on your circulation, so try to limit your intake of those.
If you have any reason to believe you’re experiencing poor blood circulation, it’s important to go and see your doctor as soon as possible. You may be putting your organs at risk if they aren’t receiving all the nutrients they need to function properly, and your legs, feet, hands and arms may be affected by not receiving enough blood too.
Watch out for the tell-tale signs of poor blood circulation, including dizziness and light-headedness, high blood pressure, muscle cramps, leg ulcers, blood clots, cold hands and feet, and varicose veins. See your doctor if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms frequently.
You may be offered a medical treatment plan, but your doctor will instruct you to make some lifestyle changes too. This is where the points mentioned in this video will come in.
Try to practice at least half of the methods of naturally boosting blood circulation for the best results. Making positive changes to your diet and lifestyle is the best way to see a long-term improvement in your circulation.