Fending off the winter weather
As the winter winds begin to blow, and we start to transition into the next three months of the season, there’ll be many things we’ll all start to notice; Christmas lights on every corner, snow collecting on every sidewalk, plows clearing every city street. However, there is one thing that many may notice, but not know how to combat it: Poor circulation caused by the colder weather.
Caused primarily by a mix of poor aging and lack of proper movement of the body, there are many factors that attribute to improper circulation throughout the body. During the winter months, finding proper circulation becomes increasingly difficult for many Americans – especially those who already suffer from conditions which limit suitable distribution to limbs and blood vessels.
Though poor circulation isn’t seen as a condition on its own, but instead one caused by other concerns, it’s important to recognize when one has poor circulation by understanding the symptoms: Tingling, numbness, and pounding, harsh pain (primarily in the limbs). Furthermore, when these symptoms progress, the reduced blood flow to the body can cause a multitude of other severe symptoms, including nerve and tissue damage.
While these symptoms are unique to each condition, and aren’t necessarily universal to every patient, it’s important to understand the connection between winter weather and its effects on the vascular system. With that, there are many things one can do to help improve circulation during the winter months.
First, though it may seem like a no-brainer, especially when it comes to Michigan in December through February, it still bears repeating: Wear extra layers of clothing. Multiple layers of clothing will help to properly insulate veins and arteries, with wool and cotton-made clothing shown to provide the best results. Extremities, such as the hands and feet, especially, are important to keep covered, as they are the most susceptible to cold weather. The knees, nose, nipples and ears can also be affected, though less commonly.
If extremities are not protected, Raynaud’s Syndrome may occur. When Raynaud’s Syndrome takes over, the fingers turn white or blue to indicate that the smaller blood vessels are constricting or rapidly using oxygen, the skin becomes painful or swollen, and/or ulcerations of the finger or toe pads occur.
Additionally, exercise is important for increased circulation – however, it doesn’t have be a brisk, overwhelming ordeal. Whether it be a daily walk, yoga, or a routine of assorted workouts, there are many ways to easily implement a regimen into your daily lifestyle. If you’re looking to implement a convenient, in-home method of exercise, stairs can be utilized for stepping exercises, allowing for improved circulation in the lower vascular system without having to step outside in the cold weather.
There are also many in-home changes to diet that can be put in place as well – many of which have shown improvement to circulation. Though some of us may skip a meal or forget to eat, it’s important to not only eat regularly, but to also eat a diet rich in vitamins and nutrients that are directly responsible for improving circulation.
Oranges, for example, act as a natural blood thinner, due to the high vitamin C content, shown to prevent poor circulation by preventing plaque build-up. Dark chocolate, and other foods containing cocoa – a rich source of natural flavonoids – have been shown to improve blood circulation. Sunflower seeds, nuts and pumpkins seeds, are high in Vitamin E, proven to prevent the formation of blood clots.
Garlic, a multi-use food, prevents plaque build-up by cleansing the blood. Similar foods, such as onions and radishes, show parallel results when stimulating blood flow. Ginkgo biloba, as one of the world’s oldest species of tree, is often used to dilate the blood vessels, which increases blood flow as a result. Finally, root ginger, when either eaten raw or added to other foods, has a similar, positive effect on circulation.
Finally, as always, it’s important to stay hydrated, as the effects of drinking enough water help to keep the skin from drying out. When skin dries, it becomes difficult for the body to retain heat, thus preventing proper circulation to take place.
Though there are many ways to help treat poor circulation, as well as symptoms brought on by Raynaud’s Syndrome, one of the more prominent methods of increasing blood flow is prevention – the more one does to stop improper circulation from occurring, the better. By following these tips, the better chance one has of improving their vascular health, and living a longer, healthier life as a result.