Many of my patients spend most of the day sitting at desk jobs without much movement throughout the day. Blood and fluids can pool in the lower extremities and slow the return of blood to your heart causing calf pain, numbness and/or cold feet. Research shows that sluggish blood flow increases your risk for blood clots, heart attack or stroke.
Who’s At Risk?
Anyone at any age can develop leg and feet cramping/pain from lack of blood flow, but it most commonly occurs if you:
- Are over 40
- Don’t get enough exercise
- Eat a high animal fat, high sugar diet
- Don’t get enough vitamins and minerals in your diet or through supplements.
Consequences of Poor Blood Flow
Not only does poor blood flow put you at risk for stroke or heart attack, but it also has some other poor health effects such as:
- Decreased memory – poor blood flow to the brain can result in memory deficits.
- Impairs healing – poor blood flow can make healing very slow and infections can set in.
- Breathing problems – impaired blood flow to the lungs can make you short of breath.
How Can You Restore Blood Flow and Cardio Health?
As I advise my patients, sluggish blood circulation, calf pain, numb and cramping feet and toes, can be greatly improved with some changes to your diet and even moderate exercise every day. Let me be more specific:
Diet: Limit your saturated fat to 25-30 grams a day. Be sure you are getting at least 25 grams of high quality fiber a day, and include Omega-3 fats. In addition, getting a good level of antioxidants in your diet will help to prevent any saturated fat you might eat from becoming arterial plaques that can limit blood flow. Here are some great antioxidants to add to your diet:
- Dark red wine
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin C
- Dark chocolate (unsweetened please).
Exercise: If you have a desk job, or are relatively sedentary otherwise, get up and walk around every 1 hour, for at least 5 minutes. In addition the following exercise plan is beneficial:
- 30 minute light aerobic activity: A walk around your neighborhood, leisurely bike ride, everyday if you can manage it, but at least 4 times a week.
- Interval aerobic training: Work very hard for 1-2 minutes at high intensity, then rest for the same. Conditions the heart and vessels to respond to sudden strains on the system.
- Weight training: Lifting single weights, or using stationary weight machines, will help keep muscles strong and able to stimulate the vessels to pump blood correctly.
Chelation Supplements: These help dissolve any heavy cholesterol deposits and/or formed plaques and move them safely out of the body. They also help prevent new ones from forming. They contain EDTA, a safe food additive (in baby food too!), malic acid (from green apples), B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, and selenium, as well as bromelain (a natural anti-inflammatory that comes from pineapples), garlic (helps open arteries), NAC (n-acetyl cysteine), and TMG, trimethyl glycine.
Regular Supplements: In addition to those vitamins and minerals mentioned above, there is Vitamin C, Co-Q 10, Vitamin E, resveratrol, green tea, that aid the blood to flow smoothly through arteries and boost your energy level as well.
Water: As I always stress to my patients, drinking adequate amounts of water everyday cannot be overstated. Water keeps blood clots from forming. Particularly, if you are flying for more than 2 hours at a time, make sure you stay well hydrated as airplane cabin air can dehydrate you and contribute to poor blood flow.
Keeping the numerous arteries and blood vessels of your body healthy doesn’t have to be complicated. It boils down to just maintaining overall good health with a good diet, adding specific supplements mentioned here, and exercise that will keep muscles and heart strong and assisting in beneficial blood flow.
If you have calf pain and/or coldness and numbness in hands and feet on a continual basis, please see your doctor who can perform specific tests on your blood vessels to rule out any immediate life-threatening arterial blockages. Varicose veins can cause circulation issues as well and it is important to determine the degree of severity to provide the proper treatment.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
In The News: Chocolate and Healthy Arteries, http://www.herbcompanion.com/herbal-living/in-the-news-chocolate-healthy-arteries.aspx
Antioxidants for Healthy Arteries, http://www.drweilblog.com/home/2010/9/7/antioxidants-for-healthy-arteries.html