Circulatory Problems

Circulatory Problems

Circulatory problems can take many forms, and can range from a minor inconvenience (such as cold hands and feet) to cosmetic problems like burst blood vessels, and painful, aching conditions like Varicose Veins. Other situations may be indicative of underlying disease processes (e.g. leg ulcers, Raynaud's disease, intermittent claudication and peripheral arterial disease).


  • Cold hands and feet
  • Varicose veins, with congested, swollen and discoloured veins visible through the skin; legs sometimes ache or feel swollen and heavy
  • Wounds on the feet or legs may be slow to heal
  • Bruising easily, from even slight knocks to the tissue
  • Although many circulatory problems don't need to be worried about, it is important to seek medical advice if you suffer from any of the following, which may be symptomatic of underlying disease:
  • Fingers or toes that are so sensitive to cold that they become numb or painful and turn blue or white. This may indicate Raynaud's syndrome
  • Tight or cramping calf pain when walking may be intermittent claudication, a symptom of peripheral arterial disease, although this condition may also be asymptomatic
  • Ulcers and other Wounds that are slow to heal may be symptomatic of diabetes or Blood Sugar Problems. Some people with diabetes experience damage to the nerves of their feet, making them insensitive to pain; consult your doctor urgently if you experience a wound or ulcer that is not painful


  • Varicose veins occur when the valves in the veins that carry the blood from the feet and legs back to the heart become damaged. The role of the valves is to prevent the effects of gravity allowing blood to pool in the lower limbs, and when this mechanism fails, the veins become congested and swollen, resulting in the characteristic appearance and symptoms of Varicose Veins
  • Peripheral arterial disease is associated with Cholesterol levels and the deposition of plaque in the artery walls (atherosclerosis). Like other atherosclerotic conditions, it is a strong risk factor for cardiovascular disease
  • Inadequate dietary intake of vitamin C and bioflavonoids may compromise the integrity of the blood vessels, causing bruising to occur from even minor trauma and contributing to the development of Varicose Veins
  • Raynaud's syndrome may occur as a consequence of underlying blood vessel or connective tissue disorders, but may also occur spontaneously. Genetic factors may be involved

Nutritional & Herbal Support

  • Taking grape seed extract supports the health of the capillaries and other blood vessels, and improves peripheral circulation
  • Resveratrol is an antioxidant compound that is believed to be responsible for the blood vessel protecting effects of drinking a moderate quantity of red wine. Amongst other actions, resveratrol appears to help prevent atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), help maintain the tone of the blood vessels, inhibit clot formation, and protect Cholesterol molecules from Free Radical Damage
  • Ginkgo also supports healthy peripheral circulation, and may be beneficial for people with peripheral arterial disease
  • Vitamins C and E are powerful antioxidants that help maintain healthy blood vessels and circulation
  • Bioflavonoids enhance the absorption and utilisation of vitamin C, and also have their own roles in the maintenance and integrity of the blood vessels
  • If you have peripheral arterial disease, supplements that may help support healthy Cholesterol and triglyceride levels, include phytosterols, omega-3 fats from fish or salmon oil, and antioxidants such as co-enzyme Q10, grape seed and hawthorn

Diet & Lifestyle advice

  • Severe, recurrent or persistent circulatory problems may be indicative of underlying disease, and require medical investigation
  • Regular exercise is important for healthy circulation. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise (such as brisk walking) on most days of the week, after seeking your doctor's approval
  • For peripheral arterial disease, walking on a treadmill under the supervision of your physiotherapist or other healthcare professional is believed to be the most effective treatment available
  • Decrease or limit your consumption of Cholesterol and saturated fats from offal, meat and dairy products, instead choosing lean cuts of meat, skim milk, and reduced-fat cheeses and yoghurts
  • Choose unrefined polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, from fish, nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil and avocados
  • The blood vessels are very susceptible toFree Radical Damage, so eat plenty of nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables to ensure that you are consuming adequate vitamin C and E and a wide variety of other antioxidants
  • Keep your hands and feet warm, if necessary by wearing gloves and socks or by applying heat to the affected areas
  • Lying with the legs elevated against a wall promotes blood flow to the heart, and may help to relieve the swelling and congestion of Varicose Veins
  • Ensure any Wounds on the legs and feet are tended to quickly and appropriately; if necessary ask your healthcare professional to arrange for the dressings to be changed for you
  • Herbalists recommend spicy foods such as ginger and cayenne pepper to promote peripheral circulation
  • Don't smoke - aside from other detrimental effects, it promotes Free Radical Damage and further exacerbates circulatory problems

If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional. Information provided is of a general nature and should not replace that of your healthcare professional.

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