While you may not be able to escape a family history of heart and vascular disease, there are many positive steps you can take to improve blood circulation and reduce the risk of carotid artery or peripheral artery disease. Even small lifestyle changes can make a significant difference in improving your overall health.
Get the Blood Pumping
Exercising keeps your blood vessels healthy, so adequate blood and oxygen can reach your muscles, tissue and organs. A combination of aerobic exercise, such as jogging; strength training, such as lifting weights; and stretching are best.
Incorporating exercise into your daily routine is easier than you think. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise a day, five days a week. Here are some simple suggestions:
- Take the dog for a fast-paced walk morning and night
- Climb the stairs instead of using the elevator
- Organize a social walking group with friends or neighbors
- Sign up for dance lessons with your spouse
- Ride your bike after dinner rather than watching TV
- Park your car in the space furthest from the store and walk
What You Eat Matters
Fried foods, fast-foods, pre-packaged snack crackers and chips, baked goods, gravy, cream sauces, butter and many dairy products may taste good but are often high in saturated and trans fats. These are the unhealthy fats that can increase your risk of developing vascular disease.
Opt for fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein like chicken, fish or beans instead. Fruits and vegetables contain healthy vitamins and minerals known to fight heart and vascular disease as well as cancer. Reach for sliced fruit and vegetables when you want a snack. Make vegetables the main ingredient in recipes and add fresh fruit to cereal and salads.
Smoking not only affects your lungs and raises your risk for lung cancer, it is damaging to your circulation. According to the Mayo Clinic, no amount of smoking is safe. That includes low-tar and low-nicotine cigarettes, as well as smokeless tobacco and secondhand smoke. Cigarette smoke contains chemicals that damage the blood vessels, which makes it harder for oxygen to reach all of the organs and tissue in the body, leading to peripheral artery disease.
The good news is: No matter how long you have been smoking, quitting will greatly improve your blood circulation.
Drink Plenty of Water
Many people don’t drink enough water to keep their body adequately hydrated. An average of eight glasses a day is recommended. You might be surprised to learn that dehydration can actually increase heart rate and blood pressure. Limit your intake of alcohol and caffeine, as they can also have a dehydrating affect on the body.
Reduce Your Stress Levels
It may be difficult to avoid stress in the fast-paced world we live in today, but chronic stress can impair circulation and affect your health. Give yourself a break.
Go for a walk, listen to music, practice meditation, learn relaxation tips, enroll in a yoga class, participate in sports, take a hot bath or even talk with a professional counselor if necessary.
Get a Massage
Massage has long been used by many cultures for improving blood flow, decreasing muscle tension and pain, increasing flexibility and improving mobility. There are psychological benefits, including a greater sense of calmness, a release of tension and an increase in overall wellbeing.
A healthy lifestyle may seem difficult to maintain, but start small. Even if you don’t see dramatic results at first, consistent activity, wholesome eating and relaxation all aid in proper circulation and thus, the prevention of many vascular diseases.
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The information contained in this article is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice. Patient results will vary based on risk factors, age, disease and medical history and are not guaranteed in any way.