The circulatory system, also known as the cardiovascular or vascular system, is responsible for regulating proper blood circulation throughout the body. The heart, an essential organ system that plays a vital role in keeping us alive and well, is a key organ in the circulatory system.
The heart pumps a continuous blood supply throughout the body via blood vessels, transporting oxygen and other nutrients to every single cell. Healthy blood circulation is also essential for removing metabolic waste from the body. The only way to ensure the overall wellbeing of our bodies is to maintain pH levels, stable body temperature, and cell-level metabolism—all strongly relying on effective blood circulation.
If the blood flow in your body became limited to only certain parts of your body, you would likely experience serious health issues. When the heart doesn’t pump blood strongly enough, you’re most likely to feel its effect in your fingers or toes, which won’t be getting sufficient blood flow. As a more concerning example, if your heart or brain didn’treceive sufficient blood flow, you could be at risk of serious health concerns, such as stroke and heart disease.
Many aspects of the body play a key role in affecting blood circulation. Ageing, for instance, is a common factor that causes the arteries to lose their elasticity and become smaller with time. This requires the heart to work even harder to make sure the blood pumps through the arteries. Ultimately, it can increase blood pressure and restrict blood circulation in the body.
Similarly, obesity can lead to swelling in your feet and lower legs, slowing down circulation. Smoking causes plaque build-up on the insides of capillaries and blood vessels, resulting in heart problems, high blood pressure, and poor blood circulation. A high cholesterol diet and a lack of exercise can also lead to restricted blood circulation.
How can you naturally improve blood flow to your brain and heart?
1. Up your intake of cayenne pepper, ginger, and ginkgo biloba
Many natural herbs have shown promising results in improving blood circulation. Cayenne pepper, ginger, and garlic deserve a high-priority spot in your regular diet, along with a herb called ginkgo biloba. Studies have found that this herb can promote healthy blood circulation and strengthen memory. According to some studies, it opens up the blood vessels and brings down the blood’s stickiness. This has a direct effect on promoting smoother blood flow throughout the body.
If you’re not a fan of cooking with raw ginkgo, you can always take it as a supplement as a capsule or tablet. You could also make tea out of it to secure your daily intake of ginkgo. Be patient, though, as it may take several weeks before you notice significant results.
2. Get enough sunlight
One of the simplest ways to improve your blood flow is to increase your exposure to sunlight. According to studies, the sun’s rays can stimulate the brain blood flow. Getting as little as 10 minutes of sunlight can increase brain blood circulation in healthy individuals. Depending on where you live, you may find it easier or tougher to get more sunlight throughout the day. If you don’t get enough sun in your part of the world, you can make up for it with daily vitamin D supplements.
3. Exercise more
Exercising daily also has a significant impact on increasing brain blood circulation to the brain. According to studies, regular exercise can promote blood flow to the heart and brain by as much as 15%.
If you don’t like intense workouts, that’s totally fine. You don’t need to sweat like crazy to promote blood flow. Light to moderate activity, such as brisk half-hour walks 3 or 4 days a week can bring huge results. As more oxygen and blood gets to your brain and heart, you’ll start to notice the positive changes in your overall wellbeing in just a few weeks.
Aside from being an effective cardio activity, waking has plenty of other benefits. The foot’s impact on the ground is thought to send pressure waves through your arteries, helping the heart pump more oxygen and blood to the brain.
4. Take resveratrol supplements
You probably haven’t heard of resveratrol before, but it can play an essential role in improving poor blood circulation. The compound is anti-inflammatory and rich in antioxidants, and it’s naturally found in red grapes. It has shown to increase blood flow to the heart and brain, and can potentially prevent certain neurodegenerative diseases.
According to research, even a small dose of resveratrol can encourage more oxygen and blood flow into the brain. It can also boost cognitive abilities. While resveratrol is found in red wine, it isn’t advisable to get all of this compound from wine alone! Instead, consider taking resveratrol supplement that are easily available in most medical stores – or just stock up on grapes.
5. Expose your body to the cold
It might sound unpleasant, but research has found links between cold exposure and increased blood flow to the heart and brain. Simply dipping your hand in icy cold water for a minute or two can increase the blood flow to the brain.
Exposure to cold temperatures can also stimulate your vagus nerve, supporting the endocannabinoid system, ultimately improving blood flow to the heart as well. If you’re scared of an ice bath, you can always ease into it by starting small. Try ending your next shower with at least 30 seconds of cold water. As you get used to the sensation, slowly work your way up to longer and longer periods. A simpler alternative is to simply submerge your hand, foot, or face in cold water.
6. Stock up on dark chocolate
If you’re a dark chocolate lover, here’s some good news! In controlled quantities, dark chocolate intake can be beneficial in regulating your blood flow. The cocoa in dark chocolate works great for boosting circulation. The flavonoid in cocoa beans can increase blood flow to the brain and heart several hours after they enter your system. This can also result in increased cognitive performance.
Just be mindful of your chocolate choices. Choose dark chocolate that has at least a 70% cocoa content, as the circulation health benefits we’re looking for are all found in that ingredient. Chocolate with a lesser percentage of cocoa can work against you, as the benefits will be overruled by high sugar content.
7. Try out acupuncture
Acupuncture is an ancient health remedy that’s quickly growing in popularity. And looking at the proven health benefits it presents, it’s easy to see why so many people swear by it. Acupuncture can play an important role in promoting blood flow to the brain. According to one study, the therapy can potentially improve the speed of blood flow to both brain hemispheres, both during and after treatment.
We’re still in the initial stages of research on the subject of acupuncture’s definitive health benefits. As more reliable studies roll out, it’ll be interesting to see where this procedure fits in the modern treatments for poor circulation in the future.
8. Eat your omega-3s
The highest quality fats your brain and heart can receive are Omega-3 fatty acids. As your body can’t make them on its own, you’ll have to make sure you’re getting sufficient quantities from external sources, such as food or supplements. Numerous studies have signified the importance of omega-3s in improving mood and memory, protecting against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and reducing inflammation in the brain.
All of these brain health benefits stem from the ability of omega-3 fatty acids to increase brain blood circulation. Some great omega-3 sources are cod, salmon, herring, and sardines. If you’re not a big fan of eating fish regularly, simply take supplement with fish oil tablets to secure your daily intake of omega-3. Some other good omega-3 sources are walnuts, eggs, and chia seeds.
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9. Ditch the cigarettes
You’ve heard this a million times, but smoking is terrible for your health and wellbeing. Its impact on your blood circulation is just a small part of the damage it does to your body. Regular smoking can damage carotid arteries—the major arteries that connect to the brain for supply. It causes them to fill up with plaque, and as it builds up over time, the blood flow restricts. This increases your chances of experiencing a stroke.
Research suggests that nicotine is as addictive as drugs like heroin, if not more. It’s tough to quit smoking, so you may need several attempts before you ditch the habit for good. Motivate yourself by reminding yourself that the benefits are more than worth it! You’ll experience them as quickly as 48 hours after your last cigarette.
10. Increase your nitrate intake
Nitrates are natural compounds found in plants and soil. It makes sense that some of the best nitrate sources are plant-based foods like cabbage, spinach, celery, beets, and other leafy greens. Several studies have associated a nitrate-rich diet with improved blood flow to the brain’s frontal lobe. This in turn enhances cognitive abilities and reduces the risk of cognitive decline with age.
Beetroot juice is also an excellent nitrate source, with research suggesting that it opens up blood vessels and improves blood and oxygen flow to the brain. You can easily find beet juice in supermarkets. Be advised, though—nitrate is an acquired taste, and you may initially want to add it to smoothies to mask the flavour until you get used to it.
11. Drink plenty of water
One of the easiest ways you can boost your blood circulation is by making sure you’re sufficiently hydrated at all times. Your blood is made up of 50% water, so drinking enough water throughout the day plays an important part of regulating your blood flow. Drink at least 8 glasses a day, but if you’re living in warm conditions or work out regularly, you’ll have to up that number accordingly. Some herbal teas are particularly good for encouraging blood flow. On the other hand, sodas, alcohol, and sugary beverages have the opposite effect, so it’s best to avoid them.
If you feel that you’re experiencing poor blood circulation, it’s advisable to book an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. If that’s the case, lack of proper medical attention can put your organs at risk, especially if they aren’t receiving the nutrients they need to function optimally. Insufficient blood flow can also impact the functioning of your arms, hands, legs, and feet.
Some typical signs of poor blood circulation include feeling light-headed, dizziness, muscle cramps, high blood pressure, blood clots, leg ulcers, varicose veins, and cold feet and hands. If you’re axperiencing any of these symptoms frequently or in combination, please see your doctor immediately.
Typically, doctors will offer a specialized treatment plan, but they’ll also advise you to make lifestyle changes to help with your condition. This is where the information in this article comes into play. Try to incorporate at least half of these blood flow tips into your routine to naturally boost your blood circulation. At the end of the day, overall wellbeing can only be achieved by making consistently positive dietary and lifestyle choices.