Struggle with the cold and think you might have sluggish circulation? A few healthy tweaks to your diet and lifestyle could make all the difference. We’ve rounded up some of the best ways to pump up your blood flow.
1. Get movingIt’s obvious when you think about it – the more you move, the more blood will be pumped around your body. Research published in the journal Circulation in 2003 found a fitness habit can help blood vessels dilate, improving blood flow.1 Any activity will help, but rolling out your yoga mat could be a good idea – a study from the University of Mississippi in 2011 found that yoga is very effective for boosting blood flow and levels of red blood cells.2
2. Keep warmWhether you’re a chilly kind of person or have Raynaud’s, a disease that makes your fingers and toes very sensitive to the cold, staying warm overall will help – even if it’s only your extremities that feel cold.3 The best way to trap heat? Wear lots of thinner layers, rather than one chunky one.4 Also try investing in thick gloves and socks, and special hand warmers with disposable heat packs.
3. Soothe stressAs stress and anxiety can affect your circulation,5 managing your mental state can be an important way to help improve blood flow. You can’t always control what’s going on in your life, but you can take steps to deal with stress. Exercising, spending time with friends, setting yourself a goal – such as learning a new language – and volunteering are all ways that have been proven to help you feel calmer and more in control. You could also try getting into the habit of practising meditation and breathing exercises to help soothe stress.5
Handpicked content: About stress and how you can manage yours
4. Try herbsGinkgo biloba has traditionally been used to improve blood flow, and there’s some research to back up its use for circulation problems, with researchers at Saarland University reporting that it can help boost blood flow to the fingers and toes.6 Ginger is another herb thought to boost blood flow, and used traditionally in Chinese medicine for stimulating circulation throughout the body.7
5. Up your flavonoidsThese substances, found at high levels in foods including cocoa, have been shown to help improve the ability of blood vessels to dilate, boosting circulation. One study found eating 46g daily of flavonoid-rich dark chocolate for two weeks helped blood vessels expand more effectively.8
Handpicked content: Healthy chocolate? Let us introduce you to cacao powder
6. Increase vitamin EThis vitamin is important for healthy blood flow because it helps your blood vessels to dilate. You can find vitamin E in lots of everyday foods, including nuts, seeds and vegetable oils such as sunflower and wheat germ oil.9
Handpicked content: Why your body – and beauty – needs vitamin E
7. Get enough vitamin CThis nutrient, found in a range of fruits and vegetables – including strawberries, peppers and the citrus family – is another circulation must-have. In fact, a 2015 study by researchers at the University of Colorado found a dose of vitamin C could improve blood flow as much as a walk because it helps keep the lining of blood vessels healthy, improving dilation.10
8. Quit smokingSmoking thickens your blood, which increases your risk of developing a clot. It also constricts your arteries, which means less oxygenated blood is pumped around your body.11 For tips on quitting, visit www.nhs.uk/smokefree/
9. Stay hydratedDrinking six to eight glasses of fluid a day is important for a healthy circulation because it contributes to the overall volume of your blood, allowing your blood pressure to adjust to your movements throughout the day.12 Remember, you don’t have to stick to plain water – tea, herbal tea and milks can all count too.
10. Stay on top of medical issuesIf you have an underlying chronic condition, such as diabetes, you may be at particular risk of poor circulation, and complications such as foot ulcers. As well as following the general advice for circulation – such as exercising regularly and not smoking – it’s important to manage your diabetes and to have an annual foot check, which will detect signs of poor circulation.13 If you have symptoms of Raynaud’s that are bothering you, such as severe numbness and colour changes in your hands and feet, see your doctor to rule out underlying causes and help you manage symptoms.14
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.Shop our Vitamins & Supplements range.
1. Myers J. Exercise and cardiovascular health. Available from: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.543.4517&rep=rep1&type=pdf
2. Woodyard C. Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3193654/
3. Scleroderma & Raynaud’s UK. Managing Raynaud’s. Available from: https://www.sruk.co.uk/raynauds/managing-raynauds/
4. NHS Choices. Keep warm, keep well. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/keep-warm-keep-well/
5. Medical News Today. Causes and remedies for cold feet. Available from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320327.php
6. NHS Choices. 10 stress busters. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/reduce-stress/
7. Jung F, et al. Effect of Gingko biloba on fluidity of blood and peripheral microcirculation in volunteers. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2383302
8. Zadeh JB, et al. Physiological and pharmaceutical effects of Ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe) as a valuable medicinal plant. Available from: http://www.imedpub.com/articles/physiological-and-pharmaceutical-effects-of-ginger-zingiber-officinale-roscoeas-a-valuable-medicinal-plant.pdf
9. Joan Aragone. Small daily doses of flavonoid-rich chocolate improve blood vessel function, study suggests. Available from: https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2004/06/5175/small-daily-doses-flavonoid-rich-chocolate-improve-blood-vessel-function
10. National Institutes of Health. Vitamin E Fact Sheet for Professionals. Available from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-HealthProfessional/
11. Medical Daily. Vitamin C Benefits Obese People’s Blood Circulation As Much As Walking, But It Still Shouldn’t Replace Exercise. Available from: https://www.medicaldaily.com/vitamin-c-benefits-obese-peoples-blood-circulation-much-walking-it-still-shouldnt-351520
12. NHS Smokefree. How smoking affects your body. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/smokefree/why-quit/smoking-health-problems
13. Popkin BM, et al. Water, Hydration and Health. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2908954/
14. Diabetes UK. Poor Blood Circulation. Available from: https://www.diabetes.co.uk/diabetes-complications/poor-blood-circulation.html
15. NHS Choices. Raynaud’s. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/raynauds/